Posted by: adventuressetravels | April 24, 2012

Che

Che.  The word is ubiquitous in Argentina.  “Che, como andas?” More common than dude, or cool, or any other slang word you might think of, it is a familiar term.  Used before names, in place of names, and of course Argentina champions their legendary hero “Che” Guevarra, addressing him by this familiar nickname.

When I heard “che” used on the streets of Vietnam, I was startled to say the least.

However, though still commonplace, in Vietnam che has a completely different meaning.  It refers to a delicious cooling sweet, slushy-soup-like drink.

Women sit by pots on the street scooping the ice into glasses and ladling the juice out and dumping the tasty toppings over. Lemon juice is always popular, but to give me the full experience my gregarious Vietnamese friend Ai insisted on my trying the coconut milk.   Ai had just gotten back from studying in Japan and was going to the states soon.  From the second I met her, I’d thought that the put-together girl who knew exactly what she wanted and wasn’t afraid to say it would fit in better at a night club  New York than with the soft-spoken ladies of Vietnam.

The sun-baked grandmotherly Vietnamese woman scooped seaweed jelly, beans, and even corn over the ice and coconut milk.

When she handed the many-layered drink to me Ai made sure show me how to stir it up mixing the delicious flavors and textures.  The drink was very similar to bubble tea but with more interesting presentation and variety of textures.  Though delicious, the most interesting part for me was, in fact the name.

Traveling and learning a bit of local languages, I revel in the similarities, the parallels and differences.  I find it fascinating that the word alma means “soul” in Spanish and “apple” in Hungarian.  Finding a familiar-sounding word in another corner of the world can make languages easier to learn and open whole new worlds.

I smiled when learning to count in Hindi and found the number 6 also was pronounced “che.”

 

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Responses

  1. Could “che” be a variant on “chai” = “tea”?

  2. Che is one of my favorite drinks in Vietnam, though I was reluctant to try it at first because it looks so revolting.

    Skip, it’s nothing like tea so I don’t think there is a connection between the words. It’s a combination of ingredients including sweetened beans, tapioca, jellies, bits of fruit, corn cooked in a jelly-like syrup, coconut milk, dried coconut, sometimes nuts. The ingredients depend on the region you’re in. You often find in markets and along the road; in Hanoi you can also find it in small shops and cafes.


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