The Thai sweet soup is usually identified with aromatic fruit including durian, longan, taro, sweet potato and so on, but the durian is the biggest draw. Foodies in Saigon unfailingly make their way to Nguyen Tri Phuong Street in District 10 to satisfy their sweet tooth.
Around five sweet soup restaurants on this street are always filled with customers and their chit chat, and agile waiters with practiced efficiency weave among the tables, taking and serving orders. Each restaurant employs dozens of staff, including waiters, cooks and guards. The crowd is the biggest on weekend nights.
Le Thuy Phuong, 57, one of the pioneering vendors in the area, has been running her store for 18 years. She said that when she started out, her customers were mainly locals and residents in the neighborhood. Now, people come from all over and “we have to constantly change our ingredients, and keep the standards and quality to best serve our customers.”
Over the last few years, Thai sweet soup has become a craze among the Vietnamese, along with bubble tea and the khuc bach (milk jelly) sweet soup.
In her 18 years of selling Thai sweet soup, maintaining the business has not been easy, Phuong said. When the popularity of bubble tea and other desserts peaked, that of Thai sweet soup seemed to decline before picking up again.
Phuong said the sweet soup is loved for its fruity components, mostly durian, jackfruit and longans. She said the fresh fruits are purchased directly from farms.
The dish may look simple, but it has a surprising number of ingredients and toppings. A typical dish has durian paste, jackfruit, logan, thymos nuts, four to five kinds of jelly and condensed milk.
Many people think coconut water is the most important component, but its balance and the milk are the true stars of the dish, said Phuong.
“The milk I use here is imported. And every dish has to have a balance," she said.
The price for a serving of Thai sweet soup is around VND25,000 ($1.07). Customers can also find a variety of other sweet soups in the area, including lotus seed soup, Ginkgo soup, coconut jelly soup, grapefruit soup and fruit yoghurt.
The shops also cater to a lot of people who want takeaways. As soon as a customer stops by the sidewalk and gives their order, the staff go into action, and in a few minutes, the packages are hung onto hooks on the side of their motorbikes.