Clay-pot milk tea, dragon fruit noodles: Culinary trends that shook Vietnam in 2023
On this year's culinary scene, various dishes surfaced as noteworthy trends on Vietnamese social media, from the Korean-inspired coin-shaped cake to fruit-based noodles and salad.
Towards the end of 2023, coin-shaped cakes garnered attention in Hanoi's online food review groups. Originating from Korea and Japan, these cakes, imprinted with 10 won or 10 yen molds, feature a spongy crust with a fragrance of egg and milk. The filling of mozzarella cheese offers a soft and stretchy texture. The dish quickly became widespread in Hanoi, particularly around school areas, with an affordable price of about VND35,000 ($1.40).
Hand-pounded lime tea
Introduced in Hanoi last August and reaching its peak in October-November, hand-pounded lime tea became a trendy beverage, eventually extending its popularity to cities like Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang. Originating in China, the tea uses specific regional limes known for their unique aroma.
Apart from the taste, customers were curious about the preparation process, which entails the hand-pounding of the limes to release essential oils. The crushed limes are added to a jar along with sugar syrup, tea, and lime juice. After shaking, the resulting beverage is poured into a cup, offering a cool, sweet, and slightly sour taste with a rich tea flavor. The distinct fragrance is attributed to the use of the special Chinese limes.
Clay-pot milk tea
Originating from Yunnan, China, clay-pot milk tea gained popularity on the streets of Hanoi in the final days of the year. Despite numerous establishments opening on streets like Hang Muoi, Ngo Tram, and Hang Chieu, these shops have still struggled to meet the high demand. Customers often endure wait times that sometimes last an hour. The clay-pot milk features tea, herbs, dried red apples, sugar, fresh milk, and tea-marinated flowers.
After receiving an order, the staff starts by carefully measuring water, milk, and rock sugar in specific amounts before pouring them into clay pots. They then add herbal teas and let the mixture cook for about 4-5 minutes. While it's cooking, the owner gently stirs the drink with a spoon. The clay pots are put directly on the stove, and each stove can handle four pots at once. Once it's boiling, the staff pours the milk tea into cups for customers to enjoy. Unlike regular milk tea places, clay-pot tea shops often provide outdoor seating. This allows customers to soak in the street scene, embrace the winter chill, and relish a warm cup of tea.
Custard apple tea
As the year-end sees hand-pounded lime tea and clay-pot milk tea gain popularity, custard-apple tea takes center stage in the summer culinary scene. Originating in Ho Chi Minh City and nearby Long An Province in the Mekong Delta before spreading to Hanoi and Da Nang, this seasonal drink became a sensation, causing a frenzy on social media and frequently running out on food delivery apps.
The preparation involves jasmine tea, kumquat, sugar, and custard apple. The custard apple is cut into pieces and soaked in sugar. When someone orders, the owner puts some squeezed kumquat in the cup, adds pre-made jasmine tea, then custard apple on top, and shakes it to create foam. The drink is refreshing on hot days, with the smell of jasmine, the tanginess of kumquat, and the sweetness of custard apple.
Dragon fruit noodles
Dragon fruit noodles have captured the attention of many people after featuring in a brand's promotional video. Despite the video's simplistic style, reminiscent of 1990s TV commercials, the dish went viral, prompting a surge on social media and sold-out statuses on e-commerce platforms.
The noodles, resembling normal noodles but with a purple-pink hue, offer a chewy texture that complements the sour broth and the subtle sweetness of the dragon fruit in an unusual way. Although it might seem like an unusual combination, it works surprisingly well. Some bloggers demonstrate how to make dragon fruit noodles at home using fresh fruit. However, a few individuals have commented that the flavor is not particularly outstanding, not diverging much from regular noodles.
Mangosteen chicken salad
Mangosteen chicken salad, originating from the southern Binh Duong Province, has become a social media sensation, particularly on TikTok. This salad features shredded chicken, a specific mangosteen variety known as mang diem, laksa leaves, dried onions, and shredded carrots.
Mang diem is recognized for its green skin and nearly ripe, sweet, and crunchy texture. However, this particular mangosteen comes at a higher cost. A serving of mangosteen chicken salad is priced between VND250,000 and VND350,000 ($10 to $140), sufficient for 2-4 people.
The dish usually comes with vegetables, shrimp crackers, and dressing. Others take it a step further by adding seafood like crab, squid, and shrimp.
Surpassing the coin-shaped cake in popularity, egg-shaped cake has become a notable culinary trend in 2023. These petite cakes, resembling chicken eggs with a vibrant yellow outer layer, are neatly arranged in an egg tray, mirroring the real thing. These small, egg-shaped cakes feature a soft crust with various fillings like chocolate, matcha, milk cream, or cheese. Priced at VND8,000 (30 U.S. cents) each, a box of 4 costs VND36,000. This type of cake is quite popular among young people and is often found around school entrances.