January 2010
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The Best Drink in Vietnam

Cafe Sua Da...ok, but not the best drink

I know that many tourists and locals alike become addicted to Vietnamese Iced Coffee (cafe sua da)…and I regularly see it cited as the drink that people most remember during their stay in Vietnam.  My Aunt says she has to have an iced coffee in the morning or she won’t have the energy to get through the day.

Admittedly I am not much of a coffee drinker, but just to see what all the fuss is about….I forced myself to order the iced coffee a few times I was out with friends/family in Saigon and Vung Tau.

I still don’t get it.

It’s usually overly sweet…so I have to dilute it by adding water….and it tastes exactly the same as the iced coffee you can find in almost any Vietnamese restaurant in The States.  Buy some Cafe Du Monde + condensed milk + Vietnamese coffee press….and voila!

Personally I am enjoying the blended fruit drinks you can find at pretty much any half decent restaurant in Vietnam much more.  Fresh Pineapple, Durian (yuck!), Kiwi, Mango, Longan, etc…..and my personal favorite and probably the most boring….Watermelon!  Very few places in the United States sell Watermelon juice.  There was a farmer’s market in San Antonio that sold it awhile back…and that’s how I became a fan.  That particular farmer’s market was great.  The fruit they carried always seemed so much fresher and larger than the ones you can find at the local grocery store….and that difference was certainly reflected in the astronomical prices they would charge.  Needless to say, the market didn’t stay open for very long.  People want quality…but they usually won’t pay 2-3 times the price of a similar item elsewhere for it.

Watermelon Juice

Ever since my first taste of Watermelon Juice…I look for it wherever I go.  Yes…I could just buy a watermelon and blend it myself….but it’s just so messy….and I am too lazy to do it.  I was very happy to find out that I can order it pretty much everywhere in Vietnam….and the first 2 weeks I was here I drank at least 1 glass every day.

As much as I like Watermelon juice….that is not the drink I am referring to in the title of this post.  That honor of that title belongs to………..dum dummm DUUUUUUUUUUUUM…….Nuoc Mia!!  Wow…too dramatic at intro?  Well…that just tells you how much I LOVE this drink.  Nuoc Mia is Sugarcane juice . The juice is obtained from continuously crushing the Sugarcane stalks through a machine with rollers.  It has the just the perfect amount of sweetness….and tastes like nothing else I’ve ever drank.  Very refreshing on a hot day!

The drink of the gods!

I haven’t seen Nuoc Mia served in any of the restaurants I’ve eaten at yet, but you can easily find it at many street vendors throughout the city….who will serve the drink in a plastic bag with ice and a straw.  Yes you can find Nuoc Mia in certain areas in the U.S. with large Vietnamese communities….but they usually skimp on the sugarcane and mix in orange juice or something else to help fill up the drink.  In VN you get fresh green stalks and pure juice!!  The price of 2 bags at the stand near my Aunt’s house…..8000 Dong…or about 40 cents.  Love it!

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6 comments to The Best Drink in Vietnam

  • vl0071

    Actually it’s not the same as what you get in the states. It’s all in the beans. I have been to the USA and I can see where you are coming from (as you can’t get a decent cup of coffee there – they call what you get at star bucks and gloria jeans coffee). It’s the same as saying all scotch labels are the same. It’s a bit upmarket but try “Sao” in Saigon to see what the fuss is about. There are a lot of really good places for coffee but I can’t remember the names.

    • odgnut

      Thanks for the tip. Is “Sao” the name of a cafe…or a type of coffee bean? The places I’ve tried the cafe sua da have been fairly upscale places in both Saigon and Vung Tau. I assumed that my relatives should know where the good coffee is since they are locals.

    • odgnut

      It turns out that “Sao” is the name of a large coffee shop on Pham Ngoc Thach in District 1 in Saigon. I finally got a chance to try out the coffee here that vl0071 recommended way back in January. My take?….I still don’t get it. The cafe sua da might have tasted a little better than the typical coffee shop in Saigon, but still not much different than the stuff I’ve had in The States.

      I’m still hooked on watermelon juice though and now I also drink a lot of apple (tao) juice. The apple juice is much better than what I’ve had in the U.S…..much more applely 🙂

  • Benny

    Try coffee that “con ch?n” has ingested and subsequently excreted. It’s supposed to be the crème de la esoteric crème. There is a coffee shop in Houston that imports this stuff and serve it either as an espresso or capuccino for about $ 25 per serving. I have tried it and cannot see what all the fuss is about either.

    I will readily concede that normal American coffee is insipid, but the general quality is improving thanks to Four bucks coffee. Vietnamese coffee is generally dark roasted and has varying degree of hazelnut flavoring (not necessarily actual ground and roasted hazelnut). I also suspect that cà phê s?a ?á is our tropical and very sweet version of an old-fashioned capuccino.

  • christinenqtq

    Watermelon juice is very good, it’s my favourite :-). you also can buy a pure bottle of watermelon juice without ice at lots of vendors, the price is 12,000dong

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