Desserts in Vietnam are generally different than most western desserts. Granted, you will find the occasional French baked item taken straight from the patisserie and made Vietnamese here.
However, one set of desserts is inherently Vietnamese: chè. There’s nothing more enjoyable on a hot summer day than eating this chilly, sweet treat.
No, it’s not the famous beret-clad revolutionary whose face is plastered on shirts all over Pham Ngu Lao.
It’s a dessert. In fact, it’s a family of desserts. Chè may be served hot or cold, in bowls, glasses, or over ice. There’s a wide range of flavours, and might contain any amount of different ingredients: beans, tapioca, jellies, glutinous rice and fruit just to start. The options are nearly endless and it is almost impossible to produce a complete list. But we took a poll around the City Pass Guide offices. The result: this list of best chè dishes in Saigon.
Chè thập cẩm - Mixed sweet soup
Chè thập cẩm is the smorgasbord of the chè family, the absolute perfect choice for someone who wants a little bit of everything. This glass of chè has it all: beans, jelly, tapioca, steamed green rice flakes, mashed mung bean, coconut milk and sweet syrup on top. Everything is served in layers and then mixed up when eaten, making a sweet and savoury treat for a light and refreshing snack.
Chè thập cẩm is the best choice for someone who wants a little bit of everything. Image source: toilambep.com
Price: VND 10,000 to 22,000
Where to eat it:
Chè Kỳ Đồng
Address: 16C Ky Dong, D3, HCMC
Opening hours: 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Phone: 090 895 41 66
Chè Kỳ Đồng is a one of the most popular mixed sweet soup shops in Saigon. It’s located in Ky Dong street, a spot it’s held for more than 34 years. The menu is updated every year with more new options for chè lovers, but the soul of this shop will always be mixed sweet soup. Everything is super affordable and the quality of their chè thập cẩm is high. Not too sweet, not to bland, creamy or chewy. All you need to do is to mix everything and enjoy.
Sâm bổ lượng (Ching bo leung Sweet Soup)
If you don’t want coconut milk in your sweet soup, you better check out sâm bổ lượng. This chè is a revered herbal remedy as well as a dessert.
A glass of sâm bổ lượng generally contains dried red jujube, dried longan, peanuts, lotus seeds, one to two slices of lotus roots and thinly shredded seaweed with sugar syrup, and crushed ice. Some of the ingredients are believed to aid the cardiovascular system and help the body function better. There’s nothing more enjoyable on a hot summer day than eating this chilly, savoury treat.
Different from other Vietnamese sweet soups, sâm bổ lượng syrup does not have coconut milk in it. Image source: media.cooky.vn
Price: VND10,000 to 33,000
Where to eat it:
Chè Sâm Bổ Lượng
Address: 339/14 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, D3, HCMC
Opening hours: 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Chè Thái (Thai Sweet soup)
If you don’t mind durian, have yourself a flavourful glass of chè Thái. A version of Thailand’s tub tim grob, the Vietnamese version is less sweet and uses a variety of fruits. 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 condensed milk and a scoop of durian.
Chè Thái is served in a tall glass with condensed milk and a scoop of durian. Image source: sendo.vn
Price: VND 18,000 to 33,000
Where to eat it:
Chè Thái Ý Phương
Address: 380 Nguyen Tri Phuong, D10, HCMC
Opening hours: 10 a.m. to 12 a.m.
There are not only one or two chè shops in District 10’s Nguyen Tri Phuong Street – it’s an entire Thai sweet soup street! Around 7 p.m., the whole area featuring Thai sweet soup is lit up with neon lights, making you feel as if you are on 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 jump into any shop you like, but we highly recommend Chè Thái Ý Phương, a nearly 20-year-old dessert shop. You won’t be disappointed.
Chè Khúc bạch (Khuc Bach sweet gruel)
“Chè khúc bạch” is very familiar to the Southern variety but it first originated in Hanoi. Its perfect balance of lychee, creamy jelly and almonds gives street food lovers a taste of summer.
It was introduced to Saigon long ago, but chè khúc bạch became a hit with Saigon youngsters in 2013. The original Khuc Bach sweet soup contains cheese jelly, lychee jelly, roasted shredded almond seeds and sugar syrup. “Simple” and “savoury” are the two words that best describe the flavour of this dessert.
Original chè khúc bạch contains cheese jelly, lychee jelly, shredded almonds and sugar syrup. Image source: images.sunflower.vn
Saigon’s beloved chè khúc bạch was creatively varied by adding new toppings and novel cheese jelly flavours. Nowadays, chè lovers have more options than ever to enjoy, such as chè khúc bạch with fruits, tofu, cheese, cocoa, green tea, chocolate and so much more.
Saigon shops offer a plentiful array of options for chè khúc bạch lovers. Image source: cdn01.diadiemanuong.com
Chè khúc bạch is best served with some shaved ice. It’s a great option for anytime of the day.
Price: VND 20,000 to 33,000
Where to eat:
Chè Khúc Bạch Thanh
Address: 68/210 Tran Quang Khai St, D1, HCMC
Opening hours: 9:00 a.m. to 9:30 PM
Chè Mâm (Sweet soup “buffet”)
If you can’t decide which Vietnamese sweet soup to try, order a bit of everything. In Saigon, varieties of sweet soups are served in small portions on a tray (“mâm” in Vietnamese); up to 16 options are available. This way, you can curate your own perfect selection of Vietnamese sweet desserts – from chè đậu xanh (mung bean sweet soup) to chè bà ba (a heavy, starchy combination of sweet potato, cassava and taro in a rich coconut milk soup) and so on. This is always a good option if you’re eating with a group of four or more.
Various flavour of sweet soup, all on a tray and ready to go. Image source: facebook.com/saigonsuada
Price: VND 5,000 to 30,000
Where to eat:
Chè Mâm Khánh Vy
Address: 242B Su Van Hanh St., D10, HCMC
Opening hours: 5:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Take a tour to this famous shop house through this video:
Video source: RICE
Besides local flavours, Saigon chè also include sweet soups brought over from other countries in the region. Regional flavours are added, making them culturally unique.
Chè Campuchia - Cambodian Style Sweet Soup
Cambodian-style chè is made with shaved ice, coconut milk served with durian sauce, strands of egg noodles, palm fruit, salted egg, mung bean paste and baby tamarind. The key ingredient that gives this treat its special flavour, however, is the pumpkin flan, a delicacy made from egg custard cooked in a hollowed-out pumpkin. These pumpkins are usually imported from Cambodia, which gives the custard a sweeter flavour than pumpkins in Vietnam. Make sure you don’t eat the rind!
The key ingredient here is the pumpkin flan. Image source: media.christinas.vn
Price: VND10,000 to 22,000
Where to eat it:
Chè Cô Huôi - Chợ Hồ Thị Kỷ
Address: 57/21A Ho Thi Ky St, D10, HCMC. (in Ho Thi Ky Market)
Opening hours: 2 p.m. to 10 p.m.PM
Phone: 090 991 87 07
Ho Thi Ky Market, located on the borders of District 10 and District 1, is well known as Ho Chi Minh City’s largest flower market, as well as Saigon’s unofficial Cambodia Town. You can find various Cambodian dishes here, and sweet soup is one of them.
Meet Fresh is a Taiwan-based chain, popular for its herbal jelly, widely adored by Vietnamese youths. A bowl of Meet Fresh contains a combination of herbal grass jelly and taro balls. Some of the common toppings include beans, nuts and fruit, depending on your preference. This Taiwanese Sweet soup is finished off with brown sugar, coconut milk and sugar syrup. For anyone unfamiliar with these ingredients, grass jelly is an Asian dessert, made from the leaves of mesona chinensis, a member of the mint family. Taro balls, the more chewy, mochi-like balls, similar to the Chinese sticky rice balls, are made out of taro.