The fifth and final installment of this Saigon Moveable Feast finds us on the corner of two one-way streets, Nguyen Dinh Chieu and Pasteur in District 3. I spend a good fifteen minutes scoping the area for a suitable joint. As I promised at the beginning of our culinary tour - "Stick a pin in any Vietnam city map and I guarantee you’ll find something interesting to eat [nearby]" and today's no different. There's four Com binh dan, drink stalls, one of seven Saigon branches of the Korean Lotteria burger chain and mobile Pho floggers. I opt for a Com binh dan that promises Chao muc (Squid rice porridge), but I'm outta luck. They don't serve squid til 3pm and that's 4 hours away. I need a filler, not a feast to tide me over beforehand.
At the traffic lights on Nguyen Dinh Chieu I find this stall with a camera shy seller. Vietnamese motorbike drivers have issues with red lights i.e. they ignore them. However, enough do stop on this street to keep in her business. She sells Che - the sweet bean and coconut stuffed desserts so loved in the south of Vietnam. You'll find far more sweet-stuff down south than anywhere else in Vietnam and it's probably fair to say Che are top of the sticky snack charts for most Saigonese. Although her stall is mobile, she's been dishing out her 1,000VD (about 6 cents) desserts for the past four years from this same spot. She has premixed Che rammed in those metal pans above and regularly bags up takeaway portions which are displayed storefront and warmed by the sun.
Che, not only look like tart-tastically top deck tucker - they are. This stall has five varieties on offer. I buy three and taste test all of them. Although, I would advise you stick to just the one. They can be quite heavy after lunch numbers, although they are healthier than a Hershey's. Exactly what goes into each Che is something of a blogger's dilemma, but I'll do my best.
This is Che Chung. In the mix we have, sweetened coconut milk, yellow corn, a couple of haricot beans, thick translucent rice noodle, a scattering of Tapioca and some black rice jelly. It's sweet, it's soft, it's a super, sugary snack.
Che Dau Trang is thick with coconut milk and there's bags more, slightly bitter, beans along for the ride in here. Thicker and more viscous than the Che Chung, it's also a smidgen salty. It's tasty, but the Che Chung gets my vote thus far. The Dau Xanh Hot, pictured below, is by far the most liquid of the lot. It's mung bean packed with an earthier flavour and a subtler sweetness. I could swear I'm tasting seaweed in there and young coconut juice, but this dissection process is tough and I'm starting to hallucinate, so don't quote me on that. Dau Xanh Hot is the most intriguing of the three, but a return visit would find me collaring the first on the list again, Che Chung.
That brings this Moveable Feast to a close. Hope you enjoyed the show. I'm happy to say the Noodlepie theory of Saigon scoffing works. But don't take my word for it, try it out for yourself. Meanwhile, it's getting near Chao Muc opening time... check out Noodlepie next week to see if squid and porridge really do make sense when served as one.