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Hẻm Gems: Dessert Stall Offers a View of City Life and an Unlikely Dating Spot

Skip the formal attire; a bit of loose change is all you need for a waterfront rendezvous in Saigon.

Photo by Cao Nhân. Doodle by Tiên Ngô.

Bánh flan Thái Thủy is not made to be a typical dating spot. It's not listed on any couple's guide or featured in romantic roundups. If you happen to stroll by, it might not catch your eye, its facade blending seamlessly with the myriads of street food stalls across Saigon.

But should you come by yourself and experience it firsthand, you'll realize that this little place has all the ingredients for a perfect date.

Ingredient No. 1: Prime location

Nestled on the curvy sidewalk of Hoang Sa Street, Thái Thủy offers simplicity at its finest. Its humble setup includes a few plastic seats and a stainless-steel cart, yet it boasts a pristine view of the verdant Thị Nghè canal. 

Wherever you sit, you're treated to vibrant green grass and the constant flow of traffic under the canopies of golden oak and plumeria trees.

Ingredient No. 2: Inflation-proof Desserts

The menu is concise but perfected over 14 years — flan, longan jelly, cheese-filled coconut jelly, and flan-filled coconut jelly. Each dish is freshly made daily by Thai, the owner, and his wife, Thuy, starting from 9 am.

Originally a bike repairman, Thai was taught the flan recipe by a friend and tinkered with it.

"It was fate, you know. Hard to explain! Back then, no one sold snacks here, so I gave it a shot. Luckily, people supported it, and I've been selling ever since," Thái explains to me

Thái's flan stands out with its velvety texture, a perfect blend of creamy egg and a touch of bitter coffee to cut through the milk's sweetness. The jellies, with their crisp bite and gentle sweetness, complemented by a light coconut milk, offer a refreshing respite from the tropical heat.

On sunny days, Thái can sell up to 1,000 servings, providing a steady income for his family despite the long hours.

Grateful for his livelihood, Thai has kept prices between 7,000-8,000 VND over the years, even as expenses climb. "With fuel prices rising, everything gets more expensive. I trim my profits a bit to keep our quality consistent," he says with a smile.

Ingredient No. 3: Free whimsy 

Though the stall opens til late, the best time for a date is between 5 and 6 pm when the golden hour sun wraps everything in a beautiful yellow glow. 

From your seat, you can see pastel pinks, oranges, and purples dance across the expansive sky as dusk falls. It's the perfect backdrop for a film photo, a deep conversation, or simply holding hands and appreciating nature's free poetry.

Cả hai có thể tìm niềm vui từ sự chuyển động không ngừng của phố phường. Bạn có thể ngắm nhìn những em cún đáng yêu được chủ dắt đi dạo như thể đang bước trên sàn catwalk (hay là dogwalk nhỉ?); đoán tên bài hát đang giật đùng đùng từ loa của các cô trung niên đang tập thể dục nhịp điệu; hoặc chơi những trò chơi vô tự lự: Chọn ra một hạng mục và thi xem ai đếm được nhiều thứ hơn: Xe đỏ vs Xe xanh. Grab vs Gojek. Người đi bộ ngược chiều vs người đi bộ xuôi chiều. Người thua cuộc tất nhiên sẽ phải là người trả tiền bánh flan. Còn người thắng cuộc? Là người được ăn món tráng miệng ngon nhất, ngắm hoàng hôn xinh đẹp nhất, và chơi những trò chơi vô nghĩa nhất bên cạnh người mà họ thích nhất.

The ever-moving scene of city life also offers its own delights. Watch adorable dogs strut as if on a catwalk (or should we say, dogwalk?); guess the songs blaring from the speakers of middle-aged women doing aerobics; or play silly counting games: Red bikes vs. Blue bikes. Grab vs. Gojek. People walking against the flow vs. People walking with it. The loser pays for the flan, but the winner? They get to enjoy the best dessert, witness the most beautiful sunset, and indulge in the silliest games next to their favorite person.

Bánh flan Thái Thủy is open form 4pm to 9pm.

To sum it up:

Taste: 4/5
Price: 4/5
Atmosphere: 5/5
Friendliness: 5/5
Location: 5/5

Bánh flan Thái Thủy

893 Hoàng Sa, Ward 11, District 3, HCMC