Vietnam – a little “S-shape country” in Southeast Asia, has been a charming attraction to foreign travelers in recent years. If you spend time exploring Vietnam, either you are keen on history or natural beauty, you will be thrilled by what welcome you here. Needless to say, a long and complicated history plus a diversified and magnificent landscape are the main parts of a trip to Vietnam. But besides these, a simple and authentic way of life will be one more aspect you need to find out about this country. When it comes to daily life, you should not miss the best and most famous Vietnamese drinks.
Spanning roughly 1600km in length, Vietnam is divided into 3 main parts: Northern part, Central Part and Southern Part. In each part that you set food on, the culture of life varies much with different types of food and drinks. Vietnam is the kitchen of the world! You might have heard this well-known quote somewhere when you are surfing the Internet for Vietnamese cuisines. But if you only focus on tasting the cuisines without trying the beverages, you will have a big mistake. Hence, here are the top drinks that you need to put into your pocket list.
Beer is drunk all over the world; nevertheless, which makes beer become one of the most delightful drinks is how Vietnamese people enjoy it every day. People can buy beer for a meal meeting at home or go out in a local beer restaurant, in which the latter is more preferable, especially for men. When going out for a beer, people in Vietnam often call it “di nhau” since it is not simply about drinking beer. There are plenty of dishes that are served along with beer in any beer restaurant; such as roasted peanut, fried tofu, steamed snails, boiled big intestines, etc. An interesting fact is that a “beer – meeting” can last for many hours with beer and only 1 or 2 dishes of “snacks” for a group of friends.
Beer restaurants can be found various when walking on the streets of Vietnam with quite rustic and sometimes boring style; as long as there are tables and chairs. Many beer shops offer low chairs sitting on the sidewalk but still draw a large number of customers daily, mostly for dinner time. As life changes, more and more modern and more expensive beer restaurants for the higher class are opened. You can find different brands of beer based on the region that you visit. If you come to Hanoi, Hanoi, Truc Bach Beer are produced by the local companies. If you come to Ho Chi Minh city, Sai Gon and 333 Beer are common. But do not worry if you want to taste foreign brands, they are also popular and easy to buy in many supermarkets or convenience stores.
The last but not least experience you need to try is to indulge yourself into the hectic vibes of the Beer Streets in big cities such Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh, and to taste the famous craft beer – “bia hoi”, the fresh, unpasteurized beer made by the local.
Similar to beer, coffee is easy to find in any corner of the world; but the distinct taste and drinking style of Vietnamese people is what’s worth mentioning.
A fact is that Vietnam is the world’s biggest producer of Robusta coffee. The Robusta coffee itself has a bitter and richer taste; and how Vietnamese people process the coffee beans really makes its final products stand out. It is not the tradition for people here to prepare coffee by using a coffee machine; instead, another tool called “phin” – coffee filters are used. A coffee filter is simple by the way it looks, yet the activity of using a filter to make and drink coffee is complicated on the opposite side and requires users’ patience. A filter with coffee powder pressed with water is placed on top of a cup; and then the coffee will gradually drip, a little by little through the nest into the cup.
The 2 most famous coffee styles in Vietnam are black coffee “cafe den” and coffee with condensed milk “cafe sua”. Both are drunk hot or cold with iced. You might notice a special ingredient that is used with coffee: condensed milk. Yes, it is not fresh milk but condensed milk which is an exclusive style of Vietnamese people to other countries over the globe. If you are not used to drinking the rich and dense coffee here, you should ask for “cafe sua” with extra condensed milk. In addition to these 2 styles of coffee, egg coffee is another must-try, especially in Hanoi, where it originates from.
Another similarity between coffee and beer is the simple coffee shops. Coffee is such an integral part of the daily life of local people in all parts of Vietnam that you can easily catch a sight of people of all ages sitting on the sidewalk and sipping a cup of coffee any time in a day.
Drinking tea is considered as an art in Vietnam as the country has a profound tea culture. Tea is essential and extensively used since it appears in most of the major social activities for a long time ago; such as weddings, New Year, ritual ceremonies to every household’s daily life. Tea in Vietnam is categorized into 3 kinds: dried plain tea, scented dried tea (tea marinated with the odor of flowers) or fresh tea. With each type of tea, there is a certain way to prepare and to drink.
You can experience the tea culture of Vietnam during your visit; however, not so many “original tea shops” are available in the tourism centers. You rather find modern tea shops which use tea as an ingredient to mix and create more colorful as well as quick drinks; and in these shop, they tend to offer takeaway cups such as lemon tea, milk tea, tea cocktails. If you have a chance, you should also have a try on the “tea culture on the street”. A very common and cheap drink called “tra da/tra nong” (iced/hot green tea) is served on the sidewalk vendors.
Other Vietnamese drinks
Together with 3 types of drinks above, you should consider the following drinks to finish your drink list of Vietnam:
- Fresh coconut
- Fresh juice/smoothies
- Sugar cane juice
- Sticky rice wine
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You will need to do a lot of walking when visiting the beautiful Vietnam; thus the drink list will certainly help to relieve your thirst. Not only Vietnamese drinks, they will be a fascinating way to extend your knowledge about Vietnamese culture and people.
Minh Vu – Travel Specialist