Give it a try

What we say: 3.5 stars

Che (pronounced chair) is a popular Vietnamese dessert or snack found at street stalls around Hanoi. Today we aim to (partly) demystify this unusual delicacy and encourage you to give it a try.

First up, find a stall. Che stalls are usually characterised by a glass cabinet housing bowls of colourful … um stuff. Sometimes the stuff is just out on a surface, minus the glass cabinet, but it looks the same. Try Hom market, 76 Hang Dieu and Dinh Liet.

A typical che stall

A typical che stall.

Decide whether you’re going to eat-in or takeaway and indicate which you are going to do before choosing your ingredients — in some places the eat-in and takeaway versions will be sold in different containers.

When it comes to choosing your ingredients, select as many or as few as you like — pointing works well — or just point at someone else’s. Last night I indicated that I’d have a bit of everything, and the smiling vendor half-filled my glass with a mix of jellified, gloopy, multi-textured, multi-coloured stuff — am I selling it to you? — and then topped it with some brown liquid, some yoghurt and some crushed ice.

I’m calling this “stuff” because I really don’t know what it all is. There’s usually some sweetcorn, and beans, and something that looks and has the texture of jelly, and that sometimes there are mini-dumplings — but other than that it’s a mystery I am still unravelling.



Give it all a good stir. That glass of colourful layers will become a brown mush.

Lastly: Eat! This is the easy bit, except for when you get a lump of ice and have sensitive teeth. Treat it like a dessert and eat with a spoon, marvelling over the multi-sensory experience. It’s not as strange as you might expect, with beans and sweetcorn actually very well suited as dessert ingredients.

A reasonable price to pay is 15,000 to 20,000 VND per cup but if you’re worried, ask the price first. The price is the same no matter how many different ingredients you select.

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