With the continuing spread of US and home-grown ice-cream and dessert parlours across Vietnam, an affordable post-phò hit of sweetness is now never too far away. While the likes of Fanny’s and Bud’s may blind you with page upon page of sugar-based alchemy, Kep ’n’ Kem is a far simpler affair. However, as with so many eateries in Vietnam, the shorter the menu and the smaller the chairs, the greater the reward. Kep ’n’ Kem fits this trend. Situated on a buzzing side-street just inside Disctrict 3 (with a second branch in D11), this kerbside joint constructs indulgent yet exceptionally good value combinations of just three hand-crafted components: fresh ice-cream, French crêpes, and sweet waffles. And you will want to try them all.
Two flavours of ice-cream are churned daily from a rotating selection of thirty, with recent highlights including white chocolate, coffee and a French-style guava sorbet. The day of our visit it’s raspberry and vanilla – both in a creamy gelato style. The combination of high quality, natural ingredients is evident in appearance alone. The raspberry glistens with a subtle pink hue – no crazy neon colourings here – and upon dunking, twisting and removing my spoon, a seductive, almost caramel-like texture is revealed. “There are actual raspberries in this,” says one of my companions as we huddle around the tiny table. And she is not wrong; the taste is both sweet and refreshing, not too heavy, and very addictive.
The Sticky Stuff
Crêpes are made to order, with a touch of flair and a choice of the usual accompaniments including the ubiquitous banana and Nutella (which is particularly divine here). Rich in flavour, yet not too buttery, each crêpe is carefully rolled and slotted into handy tear-down cardboard pockets, ideal for munching on the move (although do grab a napkin or three as the fillings will find their way onto your hands, face and possibly elbows). The Kem Burger, however, should most certainly be tackled in a seated position. This irresistible creation sandwiches a generous portion of ice-cream and Chantilly between two golden and perfectly cooked Liège style waffles. Add your choice of topping (we opt for yet more Nutella, of course), and prepare to be engulfed in a fuzzy glow of happiness. That combination of warm waffle dough and cold vanilla creaminess pooling in the waffle’s dimples… The open-mouthed silence around our table said it all, although the plastic spoons were a little too flimsy for our eager hands. Along with several other sweet creations, an Emmental and ham crêpe is also available, although you’d do well to get that far down the menu.
Prices range from VND20,000 for a single portion of ice-cream to just VND50,000 for the Kem Burger. 750g take-away ice-cream tubs are priced at VND135,000.
As if sampling each of their thirty ice-cream flavours isn’t enough to tempt you back, a three-for-two happy hour runs daily between 9am and 3pm. There’s even a loyalty card and stamp scheme.
Kep ’n’ Kem was at 7 Nguyen Thuong Hien, D3, and 2 Duong Dinh Nghe, D11, Ho Chi Minh City. It has since closed permanently.
Published October 2014 – Word Vietnam