1. Ca Phe (Coffee)
Vietnam is the world's biggest producer of Robusta coffee, a variety of bean that most coffee experts consider inferior to the Arabica type, thanks to its bitter and acrid tendencies. But the Vietnamese people know how to make the most of what they have. Local coffee beans are roasted with butter and fish sauce to bring out chocolate notes in the final brew. Vietnamese coffee is prepared using a small metal drip filter, and is most commonly served over ice. You can't walk a block of any street in the country and not see someone enjoying a coffee in one form or another.
The two most popular ways to drink local coffee are cà phê sữa đá (iced coffee with condensed milk) or cà phê đá (iced black coffee). Note that unless you specifically request "không đường" (no sugar) or "ít đường" (a little sugar), the black version will come with four or five teaspoons.
You can also get your caffeine fix with a yogurt coffee or the Hanoian specialty, egg coffee, made with whipped egg yolk. These caffeinated wonders are so delicious it's easy to suck them down in three quick slurps. Yet the locals will spend an hour or more enjoying a coffee and the free iced tea that's often served alongside it. Having a coffee is an excuse to sit and watch the world go by, either from a small chair at a streetside stall or from the window of a blessedly air-conditioned cafe.
2. Ca Phe Trung (Egg Coffee)
This is completely a Vietnamese drink, meaning it was originated from this land. According to the legend, back in the 1940s, Mr. Nguyen Giang was working at the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi Hotel and later on opened his own brand of café (Giang Café). On this one night, the shop ran out of milk to serve with coffee, so Mr. Giang came up with the idea of using a concoction of egg yolks and condensed milk as a substitute and this creation was known as Vietnamese Egg Coffee today.
To make egg coffee, egg cream is the most important part of this drink. Chicken egg yolks and sweetened condensed milk is whisked together to make a thick, fluffy mayonnaise-like consistency is formed. Then this mixture is poured over strong black coffee and it is ready to serve.
3. Nuoc mia (Sugar Cane Juice)
This yummy and fresh treat is a famous drink sold on every small corner of Vietnam. It is the juice of the canes squeezed using an electric squashing machine. Surprisingly it is not as sweet as you would expect it to be. The drink is usually mixed with Calamansi, a tiny sour citrus fruit that smells like a mandarin. The finished product has a crisp grassy flavor that’s very refreshing on a sweltering hot day. It is not only delicious but also rich in electrolytes and antioxidants to fight dehydration. You will find sugar cane juice vendors everywhere, advertising their goods openly on the streets. They usually have buckets of sugar cane stalks displayed in the front of their stalls.
4. Dua Tuoi (Fresh Coconut)
Coconut water has been a popular drink in Vietnam for centuries and can be found easily on Vietnam’s streets. Coconut water is served straight from a coconut with the vendors chopping the fruit once you order it. They chop off the outer green husk and keep the small white inner shell, cut into a shape that won’t fall over when put on a flat surface. These white globes are usually kept on ice until you order one, then a giant machete is used to chop a hole in the top.
Generally, smaller coconuts tend to be sweeter than larger ones. Try coconut water on a hot day in Vietnam and you will fall in love with this simple drink immediately.
5. Sinh To (Fruit Smoothie)
Smoothies are everywhere in Vietnam, and we're not just talking strawberry-banana. You'll find smoothies with fresh dragonfruit, custard apple, and jackfruit, along with ice and condensed milk or yogurt. My husband always orders a sinh tố bơ (avocado smoothie). My favorite is the sinh tố mãng cầu (soursop smoothie), a refreshing sweet-and-tart treat made from a fruit that's native to South and Central America and popular in Southeast Asia for a creamy flavor reminiscent of both strawberries and pineapples.
6. Ruou nep cam (Sticky Rice Wine)
The unique wine is made using sticky rice that is fermented with yeast. The wine will contain as much as 29.5% alcohol. In Vietnam drinking wine or other alcoholic drinks is more of a masculine activity. Men gather in groups to drink a glass or two of this wine after a hard day of work. Sticky rice wine is smoother and sweeter than the regular rice wine, which can be quite fiery. When trying this out you can ask for snacks like barbequed meat or seafood which compliment the drink wonderfully. The best of sticky rice wine can be found in the North of Vietnam, and Hà Nội the capital, is famous for this drink.
7. Bia (Beer)
Vietnam is one of the countries that consume the highest amount of beer in the world. Since the country people got introduced to this alcoholic beverage in the 1900s, beer drinking has become a culture. Beer is wildly popular for its taste and coolness, which can immediately freeze the heat and thirst, especially in a tropical country like Vietnam where it is constantly hot and humid. Vietnamese can jokingly say that the next top visited place of a man, besides his mother’s or wife’s kitchen, is beer restaurants along the sidewalk at every street corner. These places are always crowded in the early evening. At these street eats, roundly dozens of people drinking the cool beer on hand, cheering each other and chatting about their day over a plate of roasted or steamed peanut with shell. If you are coming to Vietnam, enjoying a glass of beer with some special snack on the street is definitely a must-do.