If you’ve spent any time in the San Gabriel Valley, you know about all the places where you can get boba teas. For a colorful and refreshing change of pace, there’s Bambu Desserts & Drinks, a growing chain featuring something a bit different: Vietnamese chè.
Chè, the Vietnamese term for traditional desserts and sweet beverages, are composed of various combinations of fruits, beans and jellies. Finding chè in the SGV is nothing new, as they turn up on the menus at some Vietnamese restaurants and bánh mì shops and some can be found at supermarkets such as Thuan Phat or The Square. However, Bambu's two locations take it to a new level, featuring a wider selection under one roof — two dozen choices, to be exact.
According to the baristas, the most popular item is #1, the Bambu Special: coconut, pandan jelly, longan and basil seeds topped with a crown of crushed ice. Like the other drinks, it’s served with a boba straw and instructions to stir the ingredients together. Eventually, you’ll need a spoon to get to the remaining contents of your cup that are too big for the straw.
Another favorite is #10, Hat Luu Suong Sáo Bánh Lot, which has coconut milk, red tapioca (made from chestnuts), pandan jelly and grass jelly. Grass jelly — a popular item in Southeast Asia — isn’t grass at all but comes from a plant in the mint family and has a slightly bitter, unsweetened mint flavor.
There’s also the fruit-intensive Chè Trái Cây, which consists of lychee, longan, red tapioca, jackfruit, palm seed, pandan jelly, jello and young coconut. If you’re not familiar with some or all of the ingredients mentioned above, fear not. Bambu has a handy wall-mounted sign explaining the different items and touting their properties and potential health benefits.
Founded in San Jose in 2008 by the four Nguyen sisters, Bambu has rapidly expanded and now has more than 40 stores from Hawaii to Georgia, heavily concentrated in Texas and California. The SGV got its first two locations last year, in Rowland Heights and San Gabriel. A location in Arcadia is slated to open May 1.
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Vietnamese coffee, blended drinks, smoothies and milk teas also are available here. Your drinks can be customized at no extra charge with extra jellies (pandan jelly or fresh coconut juice will run a bit extra). And if you or someone you know still wants boba, yes, they have that too.
Bambu Desserts & Drinks: 651 W. Duarte Road, #E, Arcadia; (626) 254-8816 (scheduled to open May 1).
Bambu Desserts & Drinks: 1606 Fullerton Road, Rowland Heights; (626) 810-77778.
Bambu Desserts & Drinks: 432 E. Valley Blvd., Suite D, San Gabriel; (626) 284-8480.