If Hanoi – the capital of Vietnam is famous for the 36 old streets and guilds, Hue – the ancient citadel of Vietnam is famous for 36 delicious sweet soups. Coming to Hue, travelers have chances to admire the beauty of the citadel, tombs, pagodas, temples, rivers and enjoy tasty dishes. Sweet-tasty and sweet-smelling Hue sweet soups are must-try foods in Hue as well as Vietnam. The sweet soups are as elegant, beautiful, and warm as Hue people.
From familiar ingredients such as many kinds of beans and peas (mung bean, red bean, black bean, hyacinth bean, kidney bean, peanuts), seeds (lotus seeds, corn, mullet seeds), yams (yellow yam, purple yam), longan, tapioca powder, water chestnuts, pandan leaves, coconut milk, coconut meat, and even roasted pork, skillful and talented Hue people have created 36 excellent sweet soup recipes. Each sweet soup has a typical texture, taste, and smell which are different from the others.
Hue sweet soups are divided into 2 main groups Royal sweet soups and Alley sweet soups and no one know when they are divided like that. Sweet soups which are considered as “royal” because they are cooked skillfully and dedicatedly, decorated beautifully. These sweet soups were served to royal families in Hue in the past. The cook must choose the ingredients carefully, all of the ingredients must be the best which means the freshest, the newest, the tastiest and the most fragrant. There are many steps to make a royal sweet soup from choosing ingredients, cooking, and decorating. And certainly, it takes so much time to finish a royal sweet soup. Royal sweet soups in Hue are usually served in warm and romantic atmospheres. Diners should eat these sweet soups a little and slowly to enjoy their tastes and smells to the fullest. Making Royal sweet soups is an art and eating them is also an art. Some famous Royal sweet soups are Lotus seed sweet soup, Lotus seed in longan sweet soup, Yellow yam sweet soup, Purple yam sweet soup, Areca flower sweet soup, Kidney bean sweet soup, Clear tapioca pearls with roasted pork in ginger syrup, etc. These desserts are served in porcelain bowls and eaten with porcelain spoon. Flat bamboo baskets, flowers and leaves such as jasmine flowers, lotus flowers, lotus leaves, banana leaves are used to decorate the sweet soup.
On the other hand, Alley sweet soups are an important part of Hue local life and its unique culture. Sweet soup stalls with a wide range of exotic sweet soups in back alleyways, on pavements, at local markets are familiar to locals and visitors for many years. Hue people turns delicate and complex Royal sweet soup recipes into sweet soups which are quick, suitable to most of the people but not less delicious than the royal ones. Hue people entertain by eating some street foods while talking to their friends and families. Many travelers love to sit at street food stalls and eat some sweet soups to fill their stomach and satisfy their tastes. Although sweet soup stalls in Hue are often crowded, it is not noisy there. A portion of a sweet soup is not big, Hue vendor fills a half of the glass with the sweet soup and fills the remaining with shaved ice, so that the diner can eat other kinds of sweet soups at the stall and still would like to eat this sweet soup next time. Everybody eat slowly and gently. Alley sweet soups include Corn sweet soup, Glutinous rice dumplings in syrup, Mullet seed sweet soup, Taro sweet soup, Mountain yam sweet soup, Hyacinth bean sweet soup, Red bean sweet soup, Sabja sweet soup, Mixed sweet soup, Clear tapioca pearls in ginger syrup, etc.
The 36 sweet soups is the essence of Hue and the pride of Hue people. It has been said that a trip to Hue could not be complete if traveler misses Hue sweet soups – must-try foods in Vietnam.
Followings are some popular Hue sweet soups – must-try foods in Vietnam:
Royal sweet soups
1. Kidney bean sweet soup (Chè đậu ngự)
Kidney bean sweet soup is a refreshing and healthy dessert which is cooked from kidney bean. Tender but not broken yellow peeled kidney bean in the lightly sweet and thick broth and topped with greasy coconut milk can win the heart of all ages.
2. Lotus seed sweet soup (Chè hạt sen)
Lotus seed in Hue is tastier, more smelling than lotus seeds in other regions of Vietnam. Lotus seed in Tinh Tam lake in the citadel is the most tender, smelling and stickiest. Hue people use Tinh Tam lotus seeds and sugar to cook a simple sweet soup but outstandingly delicious. Sipping the lightly sweet broth, eat a lotus seed leisurely in Hue, you will feel like you are in a fragrant and beautiful lotus lake.
3. Lotus and longan seed sweet soup (Chè nhãn bọc hạt sen)
Lotus and longan seed sweet soup is a creative recipe in which flesh of each longan fruit is filled with one lotus seed. They use the fruits of longan trees which are grown along the streets around the Hue Citadel and Tinh Tam lotus seeds to make this food. Juicy, sweet-smelling, sweet-tasty longan flesh pairs well with buttery, sticky, tender and smelling lotus seed. The lightly sweet broth and a longan flesh filled with lotus seed in Hue help you to calm yourself and find inner peace.
4. Clear tapioca pearls with roasted pork in ginger syrup (Chè bột lọc heo quay)
Clear tapioca pearls with roasted pork in ginger syrup is an example of cooking desserts from savory dishes. Roasted pork which is made from pork belly is a very popular savory dish which is usually served with Rice noodle sheets. Hue people cut the roasted pork into small cubes, wrap each of them with tapioca flour dough into a small pearl. The sweet ginger syrup plays off the balls which are chewy outside and salty, greasy and tasty roasted pork filling.
5. Yellow yam sweet soup (Chè môn sáp vàng)
Yellow yam is rare and one of the most delicious yams in Hue as well as entire Vietnam. From kudzu powder, yellow yam, coconut milk, Hue people cook a great sweet soup which has satisfied tastes of Vietnamese royal families and most of the Vietnamese people. The tender, buttery and sweet yellow yam pieces, the sweet, gelatinous broth and the greasy coconut milk blend wonderfully. “Simple but not simple” is what we can describe this dessert.
6. Purple yam sweet soup (Chè khoai tía)
Similar to Yellow yam sweet soup, Purple yam sweet soup is cooked from purple yam, kudzu powder, and sugar. Under the skillful hands of Hue people, the familiar ingredients mix perfectly and turn into a distinctively tasty sweet soup. The purple sweet soup reminds of female students of Dong Khanh high school – a famous high school in Hue in the past. Beautiful and gentle students in purple Ao dai uniforms was one of the most beautiful images in those days. Purple is considered as the color of Hue. Eating Purple yam sweet soup and immerse yourself in romantic and a little sad Hue.
7. Areca flower sweet soup (Chè hoa cau)
Ingredients of Areca flower sweet soup are peeled mung bean, kudzu powder, sugar and coconut milk. You may wonder why they do not call this food Mung bean sweet soup but Areca flower sweet soup. Because tender and yellow peeled mung bean bloats in the gelatinous broth and looks like areca flowers. This is one of the most favorite desserts in Hue as well as Vietnam for its simplicity, great taste, and comfort. So that there is no reason to miss this sweet soup in Hue.
Alley sweet soups
8. Corn sweet soup (Chè bắp)
Sweet soup with corn is a favorite food which attracts all ages thanks to its great flavor. Corn sweet soup is made from kudzu powder, sugar, coconut milk, and corn which is grown in Hen island. The corn in Hen island, which is very sweet, sticky and fragrant, is the best ingredient to cook this sweet soup. Corn sweet soup stalls along rivers in Hen island have become familiar places for many Hue people and visitors including travelers. Sitting on a river, let the wind blow your hair, tasting Corn sweet soup in Hen island is a good way of relaxing.
9. Mullet seeds sweet soup (Chè kê)
Similar to other kinds of Alley sweet soups, Mullet seeds sweet soup is very simple. It is made from mullet seeds, sugar, kudzu powder and have gelatinous texture. Mullet seeds sweet soup can make you love it for the first time.
10. Hyacinth bean sweet soup (Chè đậu ván)
Cooked from hyacinth bean, kudzu powder (or tapioca starch), coconut milk and sugar, Hyacinth bean sweet soup is refreshing, healthy, and sweet tasty. It consists of gelatinous broth, tender, buttery hyacinth bean, and greasy coconut milk.