Vietnam’s homegrown twist on soft drinks

By Pham Van   June 16, 2016 | 07:28 pm GMT+7

Before the era of canned drinks and synthetic flavors, people found numerous ways to make drinking more of a memorable experience. In tropical Vietnam this was no exception, and people are still coming up with all kinds of methods to lessen the blandness of keeping the body hydrated.

‘Sau da’

Pronounced like ‘soda’, the drink doesn’t bear any similarities to the famous soft drink save for the thirst quenching factor. ‘Sau’, a fruit characteristic of Hanoi, provides the base to the drink. A familiar sour additive to the citizens of the capital, ‘sau’ has been processed and preserved in many ways by those who enjoy its mild and aromatic sourness but can’t wait until next summer. However, it’s the ‘sau da’ drink that promotes these natural attributes and has led to its present prevalence. The core of the drink is the syrup made of peeled ‘sau’ pickled in simple syrup, yeah, sugar and ginger, and the ‘da’ is the same ‘da’ you find in ‘tra da’ (iced tea) and ‘ca phe sua da’ (iced white coffee). Water is added later to help dilute the syrup, providing the perfect environment for ice cubes to chill the whole concoction.

‘Mo da’

Another fruit syrup based drink, because sugar pickling is Vietnam’s favorite way to preserve fruit for off-season use. ‘Mo da’ is actually diluted apricot syrup with ice. There was a time that a jar full of apricot syrup was found in every home in Hanoi. A glass of ‘mo da’ is also said to provide an immediate cure for sunstroke, explaining why it's a favorite in Vietnam, a country where the summer sun is far from tender. Together with ‘sau da’, ‘mo da’ is one beverage that you can order without needing to look at a menu.

'Chanh muoi' 

Its abundant availability and ability to draw liquid out of tissue makes salt the obvious choice when it comes to reducing swelling. And lime exalts salt in terms of both flavor and function. But some just don’t want to have it neat. That’s how the salty drink was born. Good for sore throats, the drink also revives the exhausted bodies faster than water alone thanks to vitamin C from the lime and minerals in the salt. Turned yellow under the power of salt, salted lime is also a drink that doesn’t require a menu to order.

‘Bot san’

‘Bot san’, flour produced from the root of the kudzu, completes the menu that you can order from any pavement drinks place. Said to hold cooling properties in Asia, ‘bot san’ dissolved in water is another drink of choice to fight the heat of summer, and a powerful cure for sunstroke.