Let me welcome you with a glass of sweet chè Huế.
Chè is a sweet piece of my childhood. How I miss the days when I sat on the doorway waiting for mom to come home from the market with a chè, served in a small transparent plastic bag tied with a rubber band, in her basket.
Chè’s often translated as “sweet soup” in English. I don’t like this interpretation, I prefer to simply call it chè. I guess it’s time to add chè into foreign language dictionaries.
Chè’s ingredients are various but here are the basic ones: beans or peas, sugar, and water. Cooking chè is not difficult. All you do is boiling water, adding beans or peas in and then adding some sugar. However, making it good is another thing. In Huế, there are about three chè stalls that really satisfy my tongue: Mợ Tôn Đích in front of Thương Bạc Pavilion, Chè Hẻm in a small lane on Hùng Vương Street, and chè at a friend’s house on Thiên An Hill.
Chè normally serves in small bowls, glasses, or transparent plastic bags for take-away. It’s amazing how a glass of chè with ice chips can cool down my hot summer days. I like the exciting feeling of chewing the soft pieces of beans and the cold ice chips together. I imagine my teeth carefully grinding the beans while struggling with the freezing cold of the ice chips.
My favorite flavors of chè change from time to time. In a cold day, I’m happy with a thick taro chè while a glass of everything-in-one chè (including green peas, red beans, white beans, coconut milk, sticky rice cake, etc.) with ice chips can quench my thirst. I especially love the chè of lotus seeds which serves in a tiny Bát Tràng pottery bowl that I sometimes have at my friend’s home by the end of lotus seasons (People in Huế plant lotus from May to August). And for me the most tempted chè is “chè bột lọc bọc thịt quay”. It’s really an exotic dessert one’s ever tasted. It’s made of grilled pork wrapped in casava flour. With only one bite, you can taste the fat, salty and fibrous grilled pork, the chewy casava paste and the slightly sweet broth blended in your mouth. I also like mixed fruit chè which includes dragon fruits, longans, jackfruits, papayas, pineapples, etc. This chè is best served cold.
There are too many flavors of chè to get bored of them. If you come to Huế, be sure to have a glass of everything-in-one chè (about 4,000 – 5,000 VND/glass) and you won’t miss anything.
– chè bột lọc: coconut cubes wrapped in casava flour
– chè bột lọc bọc thịt quay: grilled pork wrapped in casava flour
– chè đậu trắng: white beans
– chè xanh dừa: thick green pea paste and coconut
– chè xanh hột: green peas
– chè khoai tía: a sweet paste made of a kind of root with purple color
– chè khoai môn: taro paste
– chè trôi nước: sticky rice cake and green pea paste (like dumplings)
– chè trái cây: mixed fruit
– chè hạt sen: lotus seeds
– chè chuối: bananas with coconut milk
– chè bắp: corns