Desserts at Vietnamese restaurants

    Raise your hand if you’ve ordered dessert at a Vietnamese restaurant. What? Vietnamese restaurants have desserts? Yep, they do. But they’re always on the last page of the menu, which you never get to because you stop at number 1 – Pho dac biet (special noodle soup) or summ’n. Besides, nobody ever bothers to ask if you’d like to have dessert before they bring out your check. And besides, pho usually fills up the once empty cavity, so no more room for sugar loads. But next time it’s okay to leave some broth and some noodle behind, cuz they do have some delicious sweet deals outback. Not bubble teas.

    Black eyed pea che is one. Mushy, plump peas dissolve on your tongue with gooey sticky rice and coconut milk. I adore che dau trang at Kim Son and at Lee’s Sandwiches in Houston, but this beauty in a glass served at Le Regal does not disappoint either. Of course, do NOT eat the mint, as much as I’m for flavor mixings, this mint is purely a matter of decor.

    Also che, but without sticky rice is chè đậu đỏ bánh lọt: sweety sweet and mushy red bean at the bottom, bland chewy green tapioca worms floating in coconut milk and shaved ice on top. Personally I think the shaved ice can get lost because it only dilutes the coconut milk, but this chilled cup of che is more revitalizing than eating ice cream in wintry days (no sarcasm, if you haven’t tried ice cream in the cold, you’re missing out big time). Kudos to Banh Cuon Tay Ho #8 in San Jose for this beany treat.

    Yet another che. You got it, there’s coconut milk :-P. I can’t quite figure out why Phở Hòa Lão II (Oakland) probably calls this thing chè ba màu, or tricolored che, where it actually has four colors: yellow of mung bean paste, red of red beans, green of tapioca, and white of buttery coconut milk, unadulterated by ice as the che is refrigerated. The only complaint would be its capability to fill me up for hours for only $2.10.

    Desserts at Binh Minh Quan cost slightly more, ranging from $3-5 each, but they also have more than just che. This beautifully crafted block of kem chuoi (frozen banana) is a three-buck wow-er: sliced banana with coconut milk hardened together, drizzled with chocolate syrup and crusted with ample peanut bits. The icy salty sweetness sends shivers down my spine.

    Bánh Cuốn Tây Hồ #8 (San Jose)
    2895 Senter Rd
    San Jose, CA 95111
    (408) 629-5229
    Le Regal (Downtown Berkeley)
    2126 Center Street
    Berkeley, CA 94704
    (510) 845-4020
    Bình Minh Quán (Oakland Chinatown)
    338 12th St
    Oakland, CA 94607
    (510) 893-8136
    Phở Hòa Lão II (Oakland Chinatown)
    333 10th St
    Oakland, CA 94607
    (510) 763-8296
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