Hanoi – the capital of Vietnam is one of the most popular destinations in Vietnam. Hanoi is not only famous with lots of tourist attractions but also unique culture and rich cuisine. Eating Vietnamese sweet soups is an important part in local life in Hanoi. Local people love to eat sweet soups not in luxury restaurants but at street food stalls on pavements, in back alleys, at local markets. Especially when the winter and autumn comes, more and more people choose sweet soups to warm their stomach. It has been said that Hanoi sweet soups are similar to Hanoi people who are elegant and graceful but warm and deep. The sweet soups reflect the characteristic of Hanoi weather as well as Hanoi people. Most of the sweet soups in Hanoi are served hot and cooked from a few ingredients including mung bean, young green rice, cassava, coconut milk. Meanwhile, people in South Vietnam, where there are only 2 seasons: dry and rainy, prefer to eat sweet soups with more sugar and ice in order to beat the heat. Followings are Top 5 Vietnamese sweet soups must try in Hanoi:
1. Water chestnut and mung bean sweet soup (Chè mã thầy đậu xanh)
Water chestnut and mung bean sweet soup is made from 3 cheap and familiar ingredients water chestnut, mung bean, kudzu powder, sugar. The sweet soup’s texture is gelatinous and gloppy. It is a perfect mix of crisp, juicy water chestnut and buttery, sticky mung bean. It is topped with greasy and crunchy shredded coconut meat. A portion of yellow and white Water chestnut and mung bean sweet soup looks nice. And certainly, it will satisfy your taste.
2. Expanded glutinous rice sweet soup (Chè bà cốt)
Expanded glutinous rice sweet soup could not be missed in the list of Top 5 Vietnamese sweet soups must try in Hanoi. Main ingredients for Expanded glutinous rice sweet soup are glutinous rice, brown sugar, and ginger. Shining, white and fragrant Golden-flower glutinous rice (Nếp cái hoa vàng) is used to cook this dessert. The cook must be skillful so that the sweet soup is not too thick not too runny, sweet enough, the glutinous rice is sticky, tender but not broken. It should have a nice smell which comes from ginger and be in brown color. Expanded glutinous rice sweet soup is usually served with Mung bean coated glutinous rice (Xôi vò, Xoi vo) which is soft, buttery, drier in comparison to other kinds of Steamed glutinous rice in Vietnam. Just add some Xoi vo into the sweet soup and eat.
3. Young green rice sweet soup (Chè cốm)
The key to this dessert is Young green rice (or Cốm) – a specialty food as well as an essence of Hanoi. Skilfull and talented Hanoi people have created delicious Young green rice and Young green rice sweet soup recipes which can win the hearts of all ages. To make young green rice, they pound 10-day-early-harvested Golden-flower glutinous rice using wooden pestles until the grains and husks are apart. The grains which are flat, sticky, and sweet-smelling are called Young green rice. Young green rice sweet soup is cooked from Young green rice, sugar and coconut milk. The coconut milk is topped on the sweet soup to make it greasy and tastier. Similar to Expanded glutinous rice sweet soup, Young green rice is usually eaten with Mung bean coated glutinous rice.
4. Cassava sweet soup (Chè sắn nóng)
Cassava sweet soup is a Hanoi capital’s specialty food which should not be missed. The sweet gelatinous broth, sticky, tender cassava, greasy coconut milk, crunchy peanuts, greasy coconut meat mix perfectly. The main ingredient for Che san nong is cassava root which is sticky, a little buttery and lightly sweet after cooking. Other ingredients are kudzu powder which makes the sweet soup thickened, ginger which enhances the flavor of the sweet soup, and crunchy and greasy shredded coconut meat which is used to top the sweet soup.
5. Areca flower sweet soup (Chè hoa cau)
Areca flower sweet soup is a delicate Hanoi food is cooked from familiar and easy-to-cook ingredients: mung bean, kudzu flour, coconut water, pomelo flower extract, coconut milk, sugar. It attracts most of the people with lightly sweet gelatinous broth, tender mung bean and nice fragrance from pomelo flower extract. Highlights of the sweet soup are simple recipe, sweet taste, comfort, healthiness. The cook must be skillful, delicate, granular so that the mung beans in the sweet soup are tender but not broken, bloating in the gelatinous broth and looks like areca flowers. The food should taste sweet enough and smell pleasant but not too strong. The broth should not too thick but not too runny. Areca flower sweet soup pairs well with Mung bean coated sticky rice so that they are usually served and eaten together.
Coming to Hanoi, do not miss a chance to sit on small chairs at a street food stall where there are a kind and polite vendor and gentle customers. Just eat slowly hot delicious sweet soups, look over the streets, and immerse yourself in local life. For a while, you can find out that there is a place in this world where the life is so slow and beautiful.