Find your inner cool with iced tea and co.

By Pham Van   June 24, 2016 | 03:12 pm GMT+7
Hanoi’s street iced tea, known as ‘tra da’ by those familiar with it, is one of the terms used in such frequency it is immediately understandable to even the city’s first-timers. But what if I tell you ‘tra da’ is more than meets the eye?

‘Tra da’

A king without a throne, ‘tra da’ is a drink found on any menu and most of the time can be ordered spontaneously. ‘Tra da’ is both the name and the kind of roadside stalls that sell the drink. The tea leaves that make ‘tra da’ come in two varieties: fresh and dried, with the latter the preferred choice for its dry bitterness, the same way Robusta is preferred over Arabica here. Super-cheap and easy to prepare, a glass will set you back from VND2,000 - VND5,000. However, a glass of ‘tra da’ is never the main reason for a trip out onto the street. In Hanoi and most of northern Vietnam, ‘tra da’ stalls are a place for cultural gatherings, where discussions are animated and life is at its most vivid.

‘Nhan tran’

A sweet after-taste is something many people love, and there is a drink that offers exactly that sensation: ‘nhan tran’. ‘Nhan tran’ is a kind of herb that, according to Asian medicine, reduces inner heat, a task necessary to maintain for good health's sake. Those who find 'tra da' too bitter turn to ‘nhan tran’, making it number two on the list of essential drinks here. However, the sweetness that has gained the drink its market share doesn’t come from ‘nhan tran’ itself but another herb called ‘cam thao’. Some may recall the same taste from the sugar coated snack ‘o mai’, where grated ‘cam thao’ is added to keep it dry. Together with ‘tra da’, ‘nhan tran’ also falls in the off-menu-but-always-available category.

‘Nuoc voi’

‘Nuoc voi’ (voi water) is a slightly dry drink with a yellowish color. The drink was common in Vietnam’s countryside for quite some time before making its way to big cities like Hanoi. ‘Nuoc voi’ earns its place off the menu for the same reason as ‘nhan tran’: to reduce inner heat. The quirky taste of ‘nuoc voi’ seems to have caught on among city dwellers, and its availability and popularity are on the rise.

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