When it comes to Hanoi specialties, it would be a mistake not to mention Trang Tien ice cream. This ice cream brand has long been imprinted on the hearts of many Vietnamese people by its attractive flavors. For tourists, Trang Tien street has long become a must-visit destination for its reflection of a tradition of Hanoi Capital.
Trang Tien ice cream, which was named after the street where it was sold, was first introduced in 1958. The first ice cream parlor was at 35 Trang Tien street, which has stood firmly as the most popular ice cream parlor in Hanoi for more than 50 years.
Earlier in the 30s under the French colonialism, Western people enjoyed ice cream at some luxury ice cream parlors like the Ze’phyz (which is still present on Dinh Tien Hoang Street), the Con Giong Hotel (16 Ngo Quyen) and the Hoa Binh Hotel (which is 35 Trang Tien now). For lower-class residents, they found their demands of ice cream satisfied at smaller parlors around the Hoan Kiem lake.
The ice cream was made completely manually and requires a lot of effort. To make ice cream, one of the must-have tools was a wooden box which had a corrugated iron box inside to keep the temperature low. Ice cream makers filled ice into the gap between the two boxes. Then, they rotated the handle of the box for about an hour and the last result is a mixture of milk, flour and vanilla. That was how simple but delicious ice cream was made.
At the time, to get ice cream, children had to queue up and wait for a long time. It was also very cool for a man to carry her girlfriend on his Peugeot bike to enjoy the coolness of ice cream under heat in Hanoi.
It was not until 1940s when the Japanese came to Vietnam that Hanoians noticed the existence of an ice cream stick (kem que). The Japanese made many kinds of ice cream, but the Eskimo ice cream was remembered the most among old generation. The ice cream looked like the present ice cream stick, but without a stick and was wrapped with glossy paper, and had a lot of flavors like orange, lemon, etc.
Trang Tien ice cream was first introduced during peace time from 1957 to 1958. At the time, the ice cream was very cheap, and suited pockets of ordinary workers. Trang Tien ice cream’s main flavors were green beans, green rice flakes or coconut milk, which were not as diverse as they are today.
Now, the most chosen Trang Tien ice cream is coconut milk ice cream cones (kem oc que.) The sweetness of the ice cream combined with the crunch of the cone creates a perfect combination.
Trang Tien ice cream looks simple, but when you takes one bite, its superb flavor will make it an unforgettable experience for you during your time in Hanoi. In the memories of older generations of Hanoians, Hanoi was made up by delicate scent of milk flowers (hoa sua) on streets, simple image of an old mossy roof, gentle fragrance of young green rice (com) in the early morning, and sweet coolness of Trang Tien ice cream! It is not just ice cream; it is a representative of Hanoi in the past.
Writer: Son Nguyen