They come in many different forms, colors, thickness and tastes- such as che do den (black turtle bean); che do xanh (mung bean); che dau do (red kidney bean); che khoai mon (taro); che com (young green rice); che sen (lotus seed). Some prefer to have individual type of che while others like it better when mixing them all to create che thap cam (mixed all). Most che restaurants and food stalls add shredded fresh coconut, coconut milk, grass jelly or tapioca pearl to give che more flavour. Some places put che in a glass while others in a bowl.
Che is a local favourite all over the country. It is served as desert or mid-day snack, in high-end restaurant like Quan An Ngon or in random food stalls on the street. It is enjoyed in any kind of weather, and provides a nutritious energy boost for the day. Have che on your top list or you will miss a big part of Vietnamese cuisine picture.
Where to eat
Che Tran Hung Dao (Alley 72, Tran Hung Dao street) is popular among Hanoians as one of the most quality places for che. Though much pricier compared with its competitors (about $1.5 per glass), the restaurant still attracts a large amount of customers every night. The filling amount of serving coupled with the elegant flavour will keep this address on top of the list for another extended period of time.
Che Ngo Thi Nham (16 Ngo Thi Nham, one block down the Hom market) is famous for its very simplicity yet authenticity. It differs fundamentally from other che restaurants in the limited variety on offer. However, the fare is carefully prepared and exquisite in taste, with traditional menu of black turtle bean, bung bean, lotus seed and floating cake types. Price ranges between 40-60 cents for a small serving, enough to satisfy your sweet tooth and remind you to come back.
Che Sai Gon (24 Ta Hien) stands at the heart of the Old quarter. As you take a stroll around the narrow streets filled up with handicrafts stores, hostels and restaurants, there is little chance you miss the place. Che Sai Gon is casual like any other local food stalls yet stands out for its crowd and the big pots of che behind the counter. The taste is light and the owner is friendly. A tall glass of che cost about 50 cents and you can combine any flavour you like.
Hue locals always take pride in their royal food culture and che plays a significant role in that pride. Che Hue has a distinctive flavour compared with che Sai Gon or che Ha Noi, not only of its enormous varieties but also for its delicacy. Slightly sweeter in taste without compromising the pure flavour, che Hue can be found in Dong Ba market or in small food stalls along the river. The price is significantly lower, about 25-30 cents per glass but the quality is compatible to that of Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh city. You will get a different recommendation for a popular che stall depending on who you ask. Just try it and judge it yourself!