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Mia da


Stick this stuff in a can, carton, bottle or tetrapak on the streets of London, New York or Paris on a hot summer's day and you'd make a bundle.

Mia da - raw sugarcane juice over ice (mia means sugarcane, da means ice) is a blindlingly refreshing drink. Sold all over Vietnam with nothing but a squeeze of lemon for an additive, I'm a regular quaffer whenever I'm sweating like a hog and in the vicinity of a stall or, in this case, doing the shopping on Ben Thanh market in the centre of Saigon.

There are 4 or 5 stalls selling mia da on Ben Thanh for 3,000VD a shot (US$1 = 15,700VD). The key is to make sure your drink is freshly squeezed by the electric mangle. Left lying around too long, sugarcane juice can go off, attract, flies, ants and anything else with a liking for sweet nectar. The cane is fed through the metal mangle lengthwise once and then folded over, with half a lemon placed inside the fold, and fed through once again.



The sugary juice floods into a waiting jug and then into your glass. Interestingly, at least I find it interesting, the mia da mangles in the north of Vietnam are nearly always of the manual variety. Hanoi's bourgeois brothers and sisters in the south don't mind splashing out on a bit of technology to speed the whole process along, or perhaps they're just a bit lazier in the southern heat.

The drink must be served cold, hence the ice. Even though it is pure sugarcane you don't have to be a diabetic to appreciate it. Surprisingly, it is not teeth-rottingly sweet, but cool, and invigorating. A real energiser for heat weary limbs. This stall not only sells mia da, but a whole range of other fruit drinks.


I'm a regular on Ben Thanh and with 48 stalls to choose from - selling soups, shellfish, noodles, spring rolls and scrummy desserts - you'll be hearing a whole bunch more about this fab food zone in blog postings to come.


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You can actually buy this on Union Square in NY. Methinks it's a pretty pervasive drink in South America... so I've been told.

Great blog, by the way. What brings you to Vietnam?

Thanks for the gapingvoid link on your blogroll :)

Heh, I remember chewing on pieces of sugar cane from the back garden when I lived in Fiji as a child. It was hard to chew initially, then there'd be this rush of cool sweetness.

Hugh - next time I'm in NYC the juice is on me. My job brought me to Vietnam in '97 and food keeps me here.

Andrew - I chewed on a kind of sugarcane rock type thing in Burma. I still get the glucose flashbacks. YiKes... there goes one now.

I've been to Saigon several times, and never once missed dinning at Banh Xeo Dinh cong Trang (46b Ding Cong Trang st, just off Hai Ba Trung Blvd) This is a clean, simple out-door restaurant serving primarily Banh Xeo(Vietnamese pan cakes or crepes); the best!!! Hope you give it a try.

Michael - on the same day I got the same tip from two other folk. I plan to visit next week - will report back when my plate's clean. Many thanks for the tip.

WOW!! Great commentary! A few people were discussing your site on (newsgroup) and I just had to sneak a peek!! Your descriptions are wonderful and the pictures were wonderful. Thank you for posting this where so many of us can enjoy it!

Thanks for stopping by. Never heard of that newsgroup before.

I was born in Dist 6., left Viet Nam at age 13. I have been dreaming to go back there, just to taste the food again.

Your documentation of street food of VN is excellent, especially with pictures, they really meant more than 10.000 words. I have never run into something like this much of info before, and I will sure pass this webpage around. Keep up the good work, I will be back reading them. Make me very hungry, miss home....

Take care.

*drooling all over the keyboard* gosh, that glass of sugarcane juice looks so yummy. I remember when I was in Vietnam in 2004 nuoc mia was the only drink that I couldn't live without.

Been in Saigon for just over 2 months and I'm enjoying your ravings. Went to Ben Thanh today and tried Bun Suong at stall 1020. Fabulous broth, nice big prawn on top and lots of things including, I think, a piece or two of mutton. Nicest noodle soup I've had here yet. Keep up the good work.

besides the sugarcane juice, the fresh coconut juice is also another my fav drink. If you want to enhance the taste, drop in a pinch of salt, and a squeeze of lemon slice, trust me the juice seems to tastes sweeter and fuller.

you may not notice the cocnut juice in the dry season is sweeter than in the raining season's .

I am a Vietnamese but now I am in US. I usually ate out on the street. I have a good one but I don't know that u ever try it. It call "com cha'y" like dry rice. It was fried, eat with shrimp, dried-pork... I know it was sold in a corner of Le Thanh Ton and Ly Tu Trong in district 1, near Bach Dang ice-cream shop ^^ I hope u like it

I'm sorry, it is on cornert between Le Thanh Ton and Nam Ki Khoi Nghia :D

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