Pass the Chè on the Left Hand Side

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Che is evidence that with enough sugar and coconut milk, just about any characteristically savory food can be transformed into dessert. I’ve consumed a lot of che during my stay in Saigon and thought it was high time I recounted the good, the bad and the ugly.

Che Tap Cam

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A little bit of column A and a little bit of column B—that’s the gist of che tap cam. Whatever the dealer is selling, she’ll spoon in a smidgen of each. You’ll most likely receive layers of beans, jellies, tapioca, coconut milk, shaved ice and more beans. This tall glass came from Che My in District 1.

Che Dau Hu

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My current favorite! The Astronomer and I each had a bowl of che dau hu for dessert today—his with coconut milk and mine without. I love che dau hu because its spicy, sweet and maybe even a little healthy. This pretty bowl was from our visit to Hoi An.

Che Troi Nuoc

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I was obsessed with che troi nuoc when I first arrived in Saigon. The tapioca orb is filled with mung bean paste and served soaked in coconut milk with a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds. Too chewy for The Astronomer, the texture is lovely in my eyes. Each individual ball goes for 1,000-2,000 VND. The dealer up top sold this bowl to me at her shed in District 1.

By the way, while I was enjoying my che, The Astronomer spied a huge rat scurrying under me! I didn’t see the rodent, but The Astronomer reported that it was a big one and inches away from touching my feet.

Che Bap

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I ordered The Astronomer a bowl of che bap (corn) while I had the che troi nuoc. Although corn is one of his favorite vegetables, he was not much of a che bap fan. My grandma makes this che often for my grandpa, but never employs coconut milk. I may have to give Saigon che dealers a citation for coconut milk abuse.

Che Chuoi

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After I finished the che troi nuoc, I still wasn’t ready to give up my stool at the che shed. I ordered a bowl of che chuoi, which consisted of caramelized bananas, sesame seeds, tiny tapioca peals, salt and coconut milk. Sweet plus salty equals magic.

Che Thach Dau Xanh

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Also from Che My, this tall glass is filled with mung bean paste (dau xanh) and Vietnamese Jello (thach). Not much to say about it except that it was simple, straightforward and good. Without the thach and shaved ice, the che’s texture would have been reminiscent of mashed potatoes and gravy.

Che Buoi

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Easily the most disappointing che I’ve consumed in Vietnam. With a name like che buoi, I was expecting some sort of pomelo and citrus creation. Instead I received a cup of boring featuring layers upon layers of more boring topped with peanuts.

Che Troi Nuoc Mang

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This was my first bowl of che in Vietnam. The che troi nuoc mang was part of a set lunch from a very pretty restaurant in District 1 called Sen. Unlike the the che troi nuoc above, this one was filled with a savory mung bean paste and a bit of meat. The tapioca spheres sat in a clear, sweet, ginger broth. An interesting departure from the original, but I prefer the sweet version.

Che Dau Tran

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Although it’s difficult to make out from the picture, this che features black eyed peas and glutinous rice. The usual suspects (coconut milk and tapioca pearls) are also present. I bought this bowl of che dau trang from an alleyway dealer in District 4. Perhaps the most pudding-like che, its mushy texture is a treat. Trust me.

3 Responses to “Pass the Chè on the Left Hand Side”


  1. 1 James November 26, 2007 at 4:22 pm

    Oh how I wish I tried this stuff…I couldn’t have found the place anyway considering I was in Saigon for only 3 days. I was so busy with family and shopping I completely forgot I wanted to meet up with you for some local foods. A friend of mine wasn’t adventurous enough to try anything on the street, so we ate at all higher-end restaurants like Mandarin, Tib, Quan Ngon, Bun Ta, Pho 24, Ngoc Suong Seafood, etc.

    Oh, I had the best Vietnamese sandwich ever at a place called “Hoang Hoa” or “O Moi” (I heard the owners are a lesbian couple, hence the term “O Moi” to refer to lesbian in Vietnamese). It is near Nga Sau Phu Dong and about the 4th house on Le Thi Rieng Street. If you get a chance, try it and let me know what you think. They open from 3:30PM until sold out.

    I stayed in Vinpearl Land. It is THE place to relax and slurge if you can afford it (mainly on food and spa treatments). It’s actually not that expensive compared to the same amenities and services you get in the US.

    Hanoi was alright. The food wasn’t as bland as others had thought. We were afraid of the diarrhea outbreak, so we only ate at Pho 24, Quan Ngon, and Bun Ta 🙂 It was weird to eat dishes typically accompanied by greens now with rice paper instead. And no “mam tom” (shrimp paste) so we didn’t even try “Cha Ca La Vong”…oh well…perhaps next time.

  2. 2 Gastronomer November 27, 2007 at 12:23 pm

    Oh James, I can’t believe you ate at all the sterile joints. Boo… To be fair, it does take a good couple of days to transition from western standards to street food.

    I will try the Lesbo sandwich joint sometime and let you know how it goes. And if the budget allows, maybe Vinpearl Land too. Is that in Nha Trang?

  3. 3 James November 28, 2007 at 12:47 am

    Keep ’em reviews coming cuz I’m taking notes for my next trip, hopefully a longer one 😉 Happy blogging!

    And yeah, Vinpearl is in Nha Trang(http://www.vinpearlresort.com/show.php)


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