Guidebook Savour the Vietnamese sweet stuff

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Savour the Vietnamese sweet stuff

Vietnamese chocolate is unlike any other, says Lawrence Osborne in The New York Times. “It’s made mostly from a bean called trinitario, an 18th-century blend of forastero — the high-yield bean now used by Big Chocolate — and the rarer, more nuanced criollo.” And, he writes, the “world’s most exquisite bars” are being made by a tiny, artisanal, single-origin chocolate maker in a garage in Ho Chi Minh City called Marou. “Marou’s chocolate has a particular complexity and variability, because unlike most chocolate makers, they can create theirs from beans they select at the source. This means they have control of everything, from farm to bar.”

One of the most famous sweet treats on the streets of Saigon, and across the Mekong Delta, is chuoi nep nuong, or grilled banana wrapped in sticky rice, recommends VN Express. Just head to the corner of Nguyen Van Thu and Dinh Tien Hoang any day from 10am to 6pm, where a small food cart sets up shop by the roadside for “a perfect post-lunch dessert,” says Nam Num in Saigoneer. “First, the whole bananas are folded into a layer of sticky rice and wrapped tightly in banana leaves. The entire package then goes on the barbecue and is slow-grilled to perfection. Right beside the barbecue sits a large pot of condensed coconut milk, warmed above a stove. After about 20 minutes, the banana leaves turn yellow, signaling that the snack is cooked.” The result: “a combination of flavors that's neither too sweet nor too salty but just right.”

“Che is the term for all variations of liquid-y, gooey, and chewy Vietnamese desserts,” says Quyen Ngo in Eater. They’re the quintessential sweets of Vietnamese cuisine -- “served hot, chilled, or at room temperature, different varieties feature fruits, beans, tapioca and jellies, coconut milk, and other ingredients, resulting in desserts with different flavor profiles and textures.” They include a hot, sweet che soup (“tiny chewy tapioca among crunchy strands of seaweed; a dense mung-bean-paste che is eaten with sesame rice crackers; and crushed ice provides balance and texture to many cold che”), che troi nuoc (“glutinous rice balls floating in sweet ginger syrup, served warm”), suong sa hat luu (“agar-agar jelly with mock pomegranate seeds”), che chuoi (“banana with sago pearls and coconut milk ... is warm and comforting”) and tri-color che ba mau (“with pandan jelly, mung bean paste, and adzuki beans, topped with coconut milk and shaved ice”).

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