Vietnamese drinks: what to expect ?
Vietnam drinks are well available, popular and cheap just like almost everything else in the country. You’ll find variety of drinks that suit your taste. From as simple as water to as weird and crazy as goat penis soaked in rice wine.
Here are the popular types of Vietnamese drinks
There’s one habit that you HAVE to contemporarily forget the minute you arrive to Vietnam: drinking water straight from taps. Taps water is not drinkable in all over Vietnam. That is true even in the top hotels. During the tours or excursion, in the hotels, on boats you’ll be provided with drinking water bottles. So you don’t have to worry about buying water to drink. Tea and coffee is made from boiled water so that should not be an issue. You may wonder how the locals drink. In cities they buy water barrows. And in the countryside they just boil water and hope the heat can kill some germs. How about brushing your teeth? Tap water in hotels or boats is good enough for that. Just remember not to swallow.
With the warm weather now in the summer you should keep yourself well hydrated. Keep drinking we normally say.
Keep hydrated in the hot weather of Vietnam
COFFEE AND TEA
Having almost 100 years of the French colonization Vietnam is influenced by that coffee drinking culture. In big cities you’ll find many coffee shops at every corner. Coffee drinking is more popular among the younger generation meanwhile the older generation prefer tea. Vietnamese coffee is famous for its thickness, chocolate-alike taste and strong.
Wondering around the Old Quarter of Hanoi or the Western Zone of Saigon you may find yourself sitting on a low plastic stall sipping some Vietnamese coffee curiously watching life passing by. If you want to join the locals then drinking a cup of “bitter tea” with workers right on the pavement (no chair or even plastic stalls at all) is the right thing to do. Just 2,000 dongs and you can witness the whole urban life of Hanoi. Coffee and tea are the two most popular Vietnamese drinks.
Just one small thing to notice when you drink those tea and coffee on the street: Better have them hot no matter how burning hot the weather is. As ice served on the street is normally made out of tap water and not recommended to have.
Selling iced tea on road side
Coffee on the street side
BEER IN VIETNAM
It may surprise you and much as it did to me when I found out Vietnam is one of the top countries consuming beer. With 9 months of sunny weather in the north and the year round summer the south, the steaming heat makes chilled beer sound more than perfect. There are hundreds brands of beer, both imported and locally brewed. Hanoi beer in the north, Saigon beer in the south and Huda beer in the center are the three most popular and cost around 1$ in a local bar. This is one of the favorite Vietnamese drinks.
In Hanoi you should go to the “International corner” at the cross of Tạ Hiện and Lương Ngọc Quyến Street in the Old Quarter. In Saigon there is nowhere better than the “Western Zone” of Phạm Ngũ Lão Street. Those two places are for locals chilling around on low plastic stalls. You can find local beer in bottles, cans or try the freshly brewed draft beer called “Bia hơi”. With nice atmosphere and those cheap cool drinks, you might find yourself ending up with too many empty bottles.
Just one small suggestion: No matter how fun it is or how cheap the beer is, don’t drink too much of that cheap “bia hơi”. Why? Because 5 full glasses of “bia hơi” for just one dollar you cannot expect the top quality or guaranty of not having an upset stomach. Better stick with beer in bottles then.
“This is what I call drinking beer”
WINE IN VIETNAM
Again with the influence of the French, grape wine was introduced to Vietnam since the start of the French colonial time. Now in big cities you can easily spot many bottle shops. Those wine and spirits are mostly imported from other countries.
Vietnam is a sub-tropical country. Therefore it is hard to grow grape for making wine. There are only a few areas which are cool enough to grow grape for wine. If you want a true authentic Vietnamese wine you have to look for the name Da Lat. Located in the center highlands of Vietnam, Da Lat offers some types of wine that is locally made. But the only reason you should drink a lot of Da Lat wine is simply it is so cheap. Having a nice candle light dinner? Then Da Lat should be at the very end of your choice list. Import wine now should be the thing you can trust.
For those who are more hardcore drinkers and want to try something stronger, more Vietnamese then rice wine is the thing to look for. Rice wine is more or less like Japanese Sake that is fermented from rice or corn. That moonshine is very popular in the countryside of Vietnam among farmers with the name “happy water”. Because it is so cheap. With 1 dollar you can have about a little bit more than a liter. Still not hardcore enough? Try taste it first! You may spit it out as it is so strong! Farmers in the countryside normally drink it at the concentration of 45%. Sometimes they heat it up to get drunk quicker! Yes Vietnamese farmers are badass!
When you visit their homes in the countryside and they offer you a cup of that wine, make sure you take it. It is not nice to refuse as it is a symbol of friendliness, warm heart and hospitality. This rice wine is drank the most in the countryside and recognized as one of the national Vietnamese drinks.
Drinking rice wine in the countryside
If you have to ask why snake blood then the answer is why not? Vietnamese can eat or drink almost everything. Anything that flies except airplanes and anything runs except cars! You can absolutely try to drink snake blood in Vietnam. Visiting Hanoi and and to try that crazy thing? Try Lệ Mật snake village that is about 15 minutes by taxi from the Old Quarter.
Snake eating is quite popular among Vietnamese and the best part off snake eating is to drink its blood. I know it sounds very weird, but I know some of you will absolutely want to try this. Now bite the heart out of the living snake and feel it beats in your mouth before swallow it with mouthful of strong rice wine. You’ll then be instructed to insert a knife just underneath the head and slice it open to release the blood and the bile. Then you can suck it out. Enjoy one of the craziest Vietnamese drinks! Bleugh.
Snake blood and its heart is believed to “make men stronger on bed”. That is a typical way of thinking among Vietnamese men. As a result, they drink almost everything they think that will “help”. I’ve seen snake wine, bird wine, bear wine, goat penis (?)…that is doused in strong rice wine for men only. Yes Vietnam is as weird as that.
Snake wine is believed to be “good for men”
Join our Hanoi Food Tour and sample so many delicious local drinks on our way.
By Pham Tuyen