Old dessert in little China

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 Chè bá»™t củ năng há»™t gà (raw egg cooked with tapioca starch) (L) is among over 20 sweet Chinese dishes sold at a street stall in Ho Chi Minh City / PHOTOS: TAN NHAN

Tong sui, which is literally translated as "sugar water," is a Chinese collective term for any sweet, warm soup or custard served as a dessert at the end of a meal in Cantonese cuisine.

Tong sui stalls that sell different types of sweet dishes are popular not only in Hong Kong, but also among overseas Chinese communities.

In Ho Chi Minh City, similar stalls can be found in the Cho Lon (big market) neighborhood Vietnam's largest Chinatown.

One of the most famous stalls is one located on Tran Hung Dao B Street, District 5.

Since it is next to a transformer station, the stall is often called chè nhà Ä‘èn/cá»™t Ä‘iện lamppost chè (chè is Vietnamese collective term for any sweet beverage, dessert soup or pudding), although its official name is Chau Giang.

The stall sells more than 20 tong sui dishes and the most famous is chè bá»™t củ năng há»™t gà, in which raw egg is cooked with tapioca starch.

Although its ingredients are simple, the dish is not easy to cook. It demands the cook calculate the right amount of starch and stir the egg in a certain way so that the yolk is done without mixing with the starch. The dish is not processed in advance but is made only to order and is always served hot.

On the other hand, sâm bổ lượng, or ching bo leung in Chinese, contains more than ten ingredients including lotus beans, longan fruit flesh or Long yan rou that are usually used as herbs in Chinese medicine. Water chestnut also makes up some of the flavor.

Each ingredient in sâm bổ lượng can make a complete dish by itself.

Simple dishes like Ä‘u Ä‘ủ tiềm (stewed papaya served with ice and sugar water) and quy linh cao or gui ling gao (a jelly-like Chinese herbal dessert made with the powdered bottom shell of turtle) not only cool you down, but also nourish the skin.

Since 1938

Ly Thanh Ha, who runs the stall with her two younger sisters, said the stall was founded in 1938 by her great-great-grandmother Phung Hanh Phan.

Phan fled war in her hometown in Guang Dong Province with her adopted daughter for Vietnam. She first lived in Hanoi, and then moved to the northern city of Hai Phong, and finally Saigon.


Sweet snacks for sale next to a transformer station near the intersection of Tran Hung Dao B and Chau Van Liem streets, Ward 14, District 5

Open hours: 4 p.m. 12 p.m.

Prices: chè bá»™t củ năng há»™t gà (VND16,000/bowl), sâm bổ lượng (VND16,000/bowl), Ä‘u Ä‘ủ tiềm (VND13,000/bowl)

She did odd jobs before selling chè Ä‘ậu xanh (mung beans) at the intersection of Tong Doc Phuong (now Chau Van Liem) and Nguyen Trai streets. Back then, Phan's stall was just two pots that she carried from home with a bamboo pole every day.

Since her food became popular, she made enough money to buy a pushcart and added more dishes to the menu.

According to Ha, Phan named her stall Chau Giang after a tong sui stall that was famous in China at that time. When she passed away, her adopted daughter inherited the business.

After more than 70 years, the stall is still popular among HCMC residents.

More than two years ago Ha and her family opened another stall only a few houses away. But most customers still prefer to sit at the old place, saying that it reminds them of the old Saigon.

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