Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung on May 18 arrived in Hanoi, successfully completing his official visits to Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus from May 12-17.
The imperial city of Hue is not just famous for its citadels and pagodas. As a popular saying goes, “Hanoi has 36 streets, Hue has 36 kinds of sweet soup.”
The central city’s iconic che, as it is broadly known, is usually made from various kinds of beans and sometimes sticky rice, and can be served hot or cold as a dessert.
A particular feature of Hue dishes, including che, that sets them apart from other regional cuisines in Vietnam, is their relatively small serving size and refined presentation, a vestige of their royal origin.
There are two types of Hue sweet soup, che cung dinh (royal sweet soup sold in restaurants) and che hem (hem means an “alley” in Vietnamese). The first is famous for its sophisticated cooking process and presentation while the second is a bit simpler.
But both reflect Hue people’s patience and devotion to work, which usually make their dishes sensational and unique.
It is very common for people drop into sidewalk shops run by street vendors in Hue to enjoy a bowl of sweet soup costing just VND5,000 (25 US cents).
Xich lo drivers drive tourists into narrow alleys where small shops serve even more delicious stuff for the same price.
The most popular che cung dinh dishes are che hat sen (lotus seed sweet soup; see photo), che hat sen long nhan (lotus seeds wrapped in longan pulp), and che dau ngu (kidney beans sweet soup).
The alleys sell a wide range of sweet soups, including che bap (corn sweet soup), chebot loc thit quay (sweet soup made from cassava flour and roasted pork), che khoai mon (taro), che chuoi (banana), and che buoi (sweet soup made from pomelo peel, green beans and cassava flour).
Hueans are proud of two ingredients that are unique to their sweet soup: lotus seeds and corn.
The best lotus seeds come from plants growing in Tinh Tam Lake, which records say King Minh Mang of the Nguyen Dynasty ordered built for entertainment. His servants used to make him fragrant tea from the seeds and petals taken from its lotuses.
The best corn comes from a field in Con Hen (Clam Isle), a poor area where residents make their living mostly from fishing and farming.
The islet is now a popular tourist spot which has many food shops selling com hen (clam rice) and che bap.