At the traffic lights on Nguyen Dinh Chieu in District 1, I find this mobile stallholder. Vietnamese motorbike drivers have issues with red lights i.e. they ignore them. However, enough of them do bother stopping at these ligths to keep this young woman’s business ticking over. I originally blogged this for a Moveable Feast feature at The Food Section. She sells Che – the sweet bean and coconut stuffed desserts so loved in the south of Vietnam. You’ll find far more sweet-stuff down south than anywhere else in Vietnam and it’s probably fair to say Che are top of the sticky snack charts for most Saigonese.
Her stall is mobile, but she’s been dishing out her 1,000VD
desserts for the past four years from this same spot. She has premixed Che rammed in the metal pans and regularly bags up takeaway portions which are displayed stallfront and warmed by the sun. Che, not only look like tart-tastically top deck tucker – they don’t half taste good either. This stall has five varieties on offer. I buy three to taste test all of them. Although, I would advise you stick to just the one. They can be quite heavy after lunch numbers, although they are healthier than a Hershey’s. Exactly what goes into each Che is something of a blogger’s dilemma, as well as a non-cook’s snakepit, but I’ll do my best.
This is Che Thung. In the mix we have, sweetened coconut milk, yellow corn, a couple of haricot beans, thick translucent rice noodle, a scattering of Tapioca and some black rice jelly. It’s sweet, it’s soft, it’s a super, sugary snack.
Che Dau Trang is thick with coconut milk and there’s bags more, slightly bitter, beans along for the ride in here. Thicker and more viscous than the Che Thung, it’s also a smidgen salty. It’s tasty, but the Che Thung gets my vote thus far. The Dau Xanh Hot, pictured below, is by far the most liquid of the lot. It’s mung bean packed with an earthier flavour and a subtler sweetness. I could swear I’m tasting seaweed in there and young coconut juice, but this dissection process is tough and I’m starting to hallucinate, so don’t quote me on that.
Dau Xanh Hot is the most intriguing of the three, but a return visit would find me collaring the first on the list again, Che Thung. Whichever Che you chooose, they all reside in bargainsville, so no need to bring a fat wallet.