I found this lone figure south of the zoo on Nguyen Binh Khiem street in District 1. The closed pot, dual basket, over the shoulder number is a dead giveaway for a che seller. She’s been selling che from this zoo wall location for "a long time. More than 10 years," she tells me. This street is choking with che sellers from 11am onwards and there’s a very good reason for that. There are three schools in the locale and when they open their doors, 3,000 kids (and a few teachers) hit the streets looking for a sugar hit. My Vietnamese is a bit ropey, but when I ask her about this she tells me "It’s freakin’ nuts when they come out. Non-stop. Blinkin’ mental, maan." Or something.
At school break time in the UK it’s the sweet shops that get invaded by kids eager for a Mars bar, bag of cola cubes, Spacedust or a quarter of rhubarb & custards. At least it was in my day. However, in Saigon, the sweets don’t need no health warning as they’re pretty good for you. They’re made out of beans, coconut, tamarind. Not a preservative, additive or e-number in sight. At this stall there are two mainstays, che dau xanh (green bean che) which takes one hour to make, see pictured above.
and che dau den (black bean che) which "is a bitch to do. It takes three hours," she informs me.
Each costs 2,000VD a glass. Having had the black bean number before, I plump for the che dau xanh which packs more beany punch than a tin of Heinz. Very pleasant kerbside dessert. Ice is optional as is the complimentary glass of iced lotus tea apres che consumption. She sells around 200 che a day and stops work at 5pm.
Hidden away under the basket on her left are the ingredients for me da (Tamarind drink).
She also has a jug of frogspawn to her right.
Che are worth checking out. I’ll admit, I’m not the biggest fan, but they’re way better than a Cornetto.