Besides local flavors, Sài Gòn chè is defined with sweet soups brought from other countries in the region, adding various flavors and tastes to the dessert scene in the city.
The oldest are Chinese sweet soups which can be found in District 5’s China town.
They serve all kinds of chè made from familiar ingredients like red beans, mung beans and lotus seeds to exotic ones with tortoise jelly, almond tofu custard and gingko nuts.
The soft and smooth texture of milky white tofu and the rich-tasting almond blend well together, creating a unique flavor in the sweet soup.
The tortoise jelly is chewy and sweet, served with a dash of honey or milk on top.
Chè Bạch Quả is a kind of sweet soup with gingko nuts, which can induce seizures for those with chronic renal disease.
Chè Trứng Gà Hồng Trà is a sweet soup with egg cooked in red tea, which is good for the lungs and kidneys while acting as a tranquillizer.
Not only a pleasing dessert, Chinese sweet soups are also regarded as natural medicine, helping cool body heat, give abundant vitality and cure constipation.
Indeed, there is no reason to say no to this kind of dessert that has several health benefits for less than a dollar.
A tip on discovering chè in Sài Gòn is to start your hunt in late afternoon as the shops only open at 5pm at the earliest and stay open until late at night.
Around 7pm, the whole area of Thai sweet soups on District 10’s Nguyễn Tri Phương Street is lit up with neon lights, making you feel as if you are in a busy central street in Hong Kong.
Customers, from teenagers to college students, from young couples to families with kids, sit on plastic chairs and tables overlooking the busy street and wait for their desserts to be served.
You can actually find a rainbow in Thai sweet soup:
The yellow of jackfruit, the red of faux pomegranate seeds, the green of Vietnamese jellos, and the white of lychees and longans.
All are served in a tall glass with coconut milk and a scoop of durian.
You can actually find a rainbow in Thai sweet soup
Those who have tried this sweet soup in Thailand may have diverse opinions about the two versions, their different ingredients as well as the level of sweetness.
You should probably try it and judge for yourself?
Although also consisting of coconut milk and durian, the Cambodian sweet soup has a milder flavor than the Thai one.
You can pick a mixed sweet soup with tamarind, pumpkin, palmyra, and egg yolk for VND20,000 (US$ 1) or try each ingredient separately for a cheaper price.
A glass of mixed Cambodian sweet soup
The sweet soup with ingredients bought directly from Cambodia can remind anyone of the time they visited the country, and probably make them want to go back.