Vietnam is not only known for its tourist attractions, but also for its street food culture by foreign visitors. A food cart or a humble peddler is enough to bewitch you with the good taste of refreshing specialty drinks on hot summer days.
It is unclear since when iced tea has become a common drink. This type of tea can even be considered as a cultural trait of Vietnamese people. From South to North, from the plains to the mountains, you can find it in any drink vendor. Especially, Hanoi is thought of as the home of iced tea. In the early hours of the morning, on street corners or in alleys, you can already see vendors selling it. Grandfathers, uncles, to young people all sit on stools and have mugs of iced tea in their hands. They gather to talk and laugh day-to-day, and just like that this ordinary refreshment enters the mind of Vietnamese people.
Sugarcane juice is a delicious, refreshing, and very inexpensive beverage that is purely extracted from fresh sugarcane and is very popular in the South. For decades, people have used their hands to squeeze sugarcane with rolling wheels (ship steering wheels) to produce this sweet and tasty drink. These very rustic memories are deep-rooted in the mind of Southern people, especially the agricultural Western region. A good glass of sugarcane juice has to be dark yellow, with a floating layer of white foam on top, and other than the nice cool taste of sugarcane there must also be a kumquat scent. Alongside traditional sugarcane juice, the Saigonese have also invented juices that combine sugarcane with other fruits to produce exotic flavours such as pineapple-sugarcane juice, strawberry-sugarcane juice, durian-sugarcane juice, and orange-sugarcane juice.
Coconut-kumquat juice/Coconut-pineapple juice
Fresh coconut if prepared well will produce a series of unique and delicious drinks. Most notable is the coconut-kumquat juice. This is a harmonious mixture of sweet coconut water and subtle kumquat scent to create a thirst-quenching drink that meets all three criteria of “delicious-nourishing-inexpensive”. A glass of coconut-kumquat juice will often consist of coconut water mixed with a kumquat and a few slices of copra. In addition, coconut-kumquat vendors will usually have another option of coconut-pineapple juice for you to choose from. Amidst the sweltering heat of the cities and the ruckus of life, one simply needs to sit down at a pavement stall and enjoy a cool glass of coconut-kumquat, coconut-pineapple juice to get rid of all their displeasure.
If Hanoi has sidewalk iced tea, “chit-chat” lemon tea, then Saigon is famous for iced coffee. From luxurious cafes to pavement stalls, coffee is everywhere with all manners of preparations: black coffee, milk coffee, bac xiu, etc. With the harmonious combination of flavours, this drink has entered the hearts of Vietnamese people and held an important position. The unique thing about Vietnamese coffee drinking culture is that they are made using filters – a simple and convenient preparation method using tools but still ensures a quality cup of coffee. Iced coffee has become a common sight of Vietnam’s streets, especially Saigon’s.
Another option to cool off hot afternoons is herbal tea. Simple, tasty, nutritious, and inexpensive, that’s how herbal tea wins the hearts of the Vietnamese people. The rich and diverse recipes for these herbal teas are the combination of different herbs with cooling properties. Just with herbal tea, there are already enough variants for you to freely choose and enjoy: oriental medicinal herbal tea, sam bo luong, chrysanthemum herbal tea, winter melon herbal tea, coconut herbal tea.
Sweet gruel is also considered a favourite street beverage of Vietnamese. The sweet but non-overwhelming taste of sweet gruel along with its highly creative variations has secured it a special place in the hearts of consumers. Each region has its unique sweet gruel. Some notable variants of sweet gruel that need to be mentioned are pomelo sweet gruel, beans sweet gruel, khuc bach sweet gruel, banana sweet gruel, ba ba sweet gruel, and rice balls sweet soup.
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