Tan Tan, $2
Strip malls and pudding have one great quality in common: they both remind me not to judge solely on appearances. In a nondescript strip mall in Vancouver, WA you'll find Tan Tan, a family-run restaurant serving fresh Vietnamese food and desserts so palpably homemade you could imagine a mom whipping them up to welcome her kids back from a hard day at kindergarten.
Chilling in a glass case by the door, the desserts mostly fall into the "chè" category of soupy or pudding-like Vietnamese sweets. On any given day there might be cơm rượu (rice balls in sweet rice wine), bukopandan (a sweet tofu tinted green pandanus leaf), Vietnamese yogurt, chè bắp (sweet corn, sticky rice, and coconut milk), or chè đậu trắng (black eyed peas, sticky rice, and coconut milk). All the blobs, lumps, and cloudy liquids are prepacked into clear plastic cups.
Slightly greyish and pocked with dark splotches, chè chuối may not be much to look at, but like all great puddings it offers an experience all the more transcendent for being unexpected. Sweet-tart slices of fresh banana and succulent spheres of tapioca swim in thick, silky, sweetened coconut milk. Tan Tan even provides a garnish of crushed, roasted peanuts, thoughtfully packaged in a tiny ziploc bag so that they stay fresh and crisp until the moment comes to provide the perfect counterpoint to all that unctuous richness.
Ste A3316 SE 123rd Ave