Vietnamese desserts come in all kinds of colors and flavors. Try some today!
Vietnamese cuisine is renowned for its variety of street food and small family shops. Hiding between the stalls of pho and bun cha in the markets are vendors serving bright and colorful Vietnamese desserts. They might seem unusual and complicated to the untrained eye, so check out this helpful guide to Vietnam’s best and most well-known sweet treats.
What: Che is a group of Vietnamese desserts rather than a specific one. It’s a sweet soup containing an abundance of flavor and texture — beans, jelly, fruit, seeds, tapioca, you name it. Commonly served in a glass or bowl layered with ice and drowned in coconut milk, che is a refreshing dessert that goes down smoothly on a hot summer day.
Some of the common variations of che are as follows:
Ba mau — three-color dessert, the most famous of the che’s consisting of three layers of yellow mung bean paste, red beans and green pandan jelly topped with ice and coconut milk
Bap — sweet corn pudding
Chuoi — banana with sago pearls and coconut milk sweet soup
Troi nuoc — sweet sticky rice dumplings in syrup
Dau den — black bean sweet soup with coconut syrup
Where: You will see many a street vendor selling a variety of che by the glass on the side of the road in the early morning. Your other option is finding a stand at one of the many outdoor markets in Vietnam. Honorable mention goes out to Che Coco’s stall at the Ho Thi Ky Flower Market in Saigon.
How much: 10,000 to 20,000 VND
Banh da lon
What: Banh da lon is a glutinous colorful layer cake made from a variety of ingredients such as tapioca starch, rice flour, mashed mung beans, taro or durian, coconut milk or water, and sugar. Also known as pigskin cake for its chewy and gelatinous texture, banh da lon is a favorite of locals everywhere.
Where: The dessert is ubiquitous in Vietnam. You can find it in grocery stores, on the glass shelves of the bike-riding vendors, or at one of many market stalls.
How much: 5,000 to 15,000 VND
What: you didn’t actually expect this list not to contain durian, did you? Banh pia is a durian-centric dessert. It’s a buttery, flaky crust wrapping around a center of durian paste and salted egg yolk. Other iterations include taro root or salty beef paste. Banh pia often comes with hot ginger tea to balance out the sweetness of the cake.
Where: it’s easy to buy packaged banh pia cakes at many grocery stores. You can even order it delivered to your home via the popular food-delivery app Vietnammm. If you are looking for a more authentic experience, try Nhu Lan Bakery in District 1.
How much: Bags retail between 40,000 and 150,000 VND
Banh trung thu (Mooncake)
What: Mooncakes are a dessert originally from China, now enjoyed in many parts of Asia as a special treat. Locals often give them to friends and family as gifts during the Vietnamese New Year (Tet Holiday) or the Autumn Festival. They believe the cakes bring good luck, particularly in business, and they have become a popular gift between work colleagues. The flaky crust is carefully shaped into a detailed flower. The rich, dense filling comes in a wide range of flavors and textures, often favoring red bean paste, meat or lotus seed paste. Vietnamese mooncakes usually have a salted egg yolk added to balance out the sweet flavors of the filling.
Vietnamese mooncakes come in two variations:
Banh nuong — the traditional flaky baked crust mooncake
Banh deo — sticky rice mooncake
Where: If you are looking for a gift to impress your boss, try the Cadillac of mooncakes from Le Meridien Saigon. You can find a more affordable version at the Brodard bakery chain.
How much: Single mooncakes start at 100,000 VND for the most basic version. Le Meridien’s version retails for 268,000 VND for a single cake.
What: It’s not one of the traditional Vietnamese desserts, but MAROU gets an honorable mention. This special chocolate owes much of its flavor to the climate and environment in the rural provinces where the cacao beans flourish.
Where: You can check out the chocolate collection at MAROU Faiseurs de Chocolat in District 1. They also sell other culinary delights, such as their MAROU Hot Chocolate, available in such flavors such as extra bitter or chili and cinnamon. Honorable mention goes to their Les Saigonnaises. It’s a Vietnamese take on the world-famous Cronut. The rich, velvety and slightly bitter flavor of roasted cocoa mingles with the sweetness and creaminess of the custard, served on a flaky pastry. Prepare to share your dessert. Its richness is almost overwhelming.
How much: It ain’t cheap! Bars retail between 80,000 and 130,000 VND. Pastries and drinks range from 70,000 to 150,000 VND.
Time to eat something sweet!
Vietnamese desserts are unlike anything you’ve tried before. Their texture and flavor might seem strange to tourists, but they’re both decadent and cooling. They elate your senses and give you a glimpse into local traditions. So don’t be afraid to have a little culinary adventure after sampling the more hearty delicacies at markets all over Vietnam.