Reopening tastes sweet for Saigon dessert vendor in HCMC’s iconic Ben Thanh Market

A sweet soup stall vendor in HCMC’s iconic Ben Thanh Market is happy about reopening despite business having plunged as a result of Covid-19 impacts.

The Ben Thanh Market, popular among both locals and foreign visitors, reopened October 3 after three months of closure, allowing its food court to resume business providing takeaways. Trinh owns a che (sweet soup) stall called Be Che that has been operating in the market for more than 50 years. She said she felt happy and relieved to be back in business.
“I find happiness when I am at the market. For now, I don’t care about profit though my business has gone down because of the pandemic.”
Before the pandemic, her stall was always crowded, especially at lunchtime. The stall had seven employees then, but now, she has to make do with just three or four. Now, she sells 30 to 50 servings of che on average a day, just 40 percent of her pre-pandemic sales.
The stall serves both hot and cold desserts with different ingredients including rice balls, tofu, sweet taro, lotus seeds, black beans and coconut milk, mostly in the VND25,000 to 35,000 ($1.09-1.53) price range.
A glass of che thap cam (mixed che), as pictured, includes yellow mung beans sweet soup, green faux pomegranate seeds, green pandan jelly stripes, creamy coconut milk and crushed ice.
The faux pomegranate seeds are made with tapioca flour and water chestnut. They taste chewy outside and crisp inside. They are colored green to make the dish more colorful.
This sweet dish is cooked with peeled yellow mung beans which are soaked for a few hours, cooked in boiled water until tender. Then, it is mashed or ground into a smooth paste and cooked again with sugar.
Trinh’s stall prepares boxes of com ruou (fermented rice dessert) and banh bo (steamed rice cake) to deliver to customers. Though she has reopened her business at the Ben Thanh Market, Trinh still sells her sweets online at home.
About 10 stalls have reopened at the Ben Thanh Market food court. Other stalls remain closed. According to regulations, all vendors must be tested for Covid-19 every three days and comply with pandemic prevention measures.

By Vi Yen

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