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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Cold Che: Hot-Day Food

Posted By on Thu, Sep 2, 2010 at 12:23 PM

click to enlarge Just add ice: Chè from Lee's Sandwiches, $1.95 each. - JONATHAN KAUFFMAN
  • Jonathan Kauffman
  • Just add ice: Chè from Lee's Sandwiches, $1.95 each.

What, 83 degrees today? You've survived worse, O San Franciscan. Nevertheless, today is a day for cold noodles and ice cream. Long lunches on the Yerba Buena Park lawn. Or for an afternoon chè break.

Rifle through the drinks fridge at your nearest Vietnamese deli, and you'll see dozens of chè, or soupy, cold desserts: lychees and gelatinous basil seeds floating in caramel-colored syrup, coconut milk with sago pearls and fresh melon balls, or multicolored suong sa hot luu like the cups above, which we bought at Lee's Sandwiches on Larkin this morning. (Lee's also devotes a goodly chunk of its steam table to steaming containers of warm chè, which you can order by the bowl and do some pick-a-mixing, Brachs style.)

click to enlarge Yesterday's find: Melon and sago pearl chè from Irving Cafe and Deli. - JONATHAN KAUFFMAN
  • Jonathan Kauffman
  • Yesterday's find: Melon and sago pearl chè from Irving Cafe and Deli.
The cups in Lee's cooler all cost $1.95, with a "buy three, get one free" deal. The reddish cup contained cherry-colored tapioca clumps, mung-bean balls, strips of agar-agar jelly, and julienned water chestnuts, their watery crunch a surprise each time we bit into it. The greenish cup, flavored with a tinge of pandan-leaf extract, was filled with agar strips, sweet fruit jellies, kidney beans, konjac cubes, plus a few bits and blobs that we couldn't identify. As long as it was sweet, we didn't care.

We crushed a few ice cubes and stirred them into our cups, where they thinned out the coconut milk and brought the temperature of the chè ― and our bodies ― down at least a few degrees. Anything to make the sweating stop.

Lee's Sandwiches: 625 Larkin (at Ellis), 929-6888.

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie. Follow me at @JonKauffman.

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