I’ve never needed nor wanted a high-powered blender. But, after several weeks of traveling through Vietnam and Cambodia, I’ve been hit with an unexpected side effect.
I’m completely OBSESSED with juice!
Southeast Asia is a mecca for tropical fruit lovers. With fruit being a major staple of people’s diets, and with so many busy people constantly on the move in the big cities of the area, there are more places selling juices, smoothies, and fruit shakes than you can possibly count.
Since I’ve been here, I’ve had the following fruit concoctions:
Guava, dragon fruit, lychee (where have you been all of my life???), watermelon, papaya, mango, banana (and anyone who knows me well knows I bloody HATE bananas – and I still had them here), rambutan, pineapple, lemon, lime, strawberry, coconut, and (my all-time personal favorite) passion fruit.
Pretty much the only thing I haven’t tried here is orange, because I’m a snobby Californian who knows they’re not going to get it better here than I already have it at home.
Here are some tips for “juicing” in Southeast Asia:
JUICE/SMOOTHIE/SHAKE?: In most places, they will offer options for juices and smoothies, and they’ll occasionally offer options for shakes.
Juice is usually the cheapest option. It’s literally the juice of whatever fruit you’ve ordered, and nearly always served “on the rocks”.
Smoothies in Southeast Asia are not like the Jamba Juice from back home. It’s just fruit and ice blended together. As a result, it’s the mid-range option in terms of pricing.
Shakes are the most expensive option, and aren’t served everywhere. A shake is basically the closest thing to an America smoothie, containing fruit, a dairy base, and sugar (though not nearly as much as back home).
Sometimes we’ve seen items advertised as “shakes” that didn’t contain dairy base. For example, I had a lemon shake at our Cambodian guest house. (Actually, when we checked out, the bill showed I had six. They’re super good.) But, it’s really a frozen lemonade.
That being said, given the price point ($1.00), it’s easy to tell it’s really a smoothie, and not a shake.
If you’re not sure about an item on a menu, just ask. They’ll nearly always know what all is in the mix.
PRICE: In both Vietnam & Cambodia, juice & smoothie costs vary from anywhere from $1-$2.50. If you’re paying more than $2-$2.50 for your treat, make sure it’s a shake (not a smoothie, a SHAKE, which should have added dairy base and sugar). Otherwise, you’re overpaying.
You can find shakes less than $2.50, though! My favorite one was a strawberry shake at a random, hole-in-the-wall restaurant. It was about $2.25, and it was the best strawberry shake of my LIFE! (It was completely different from the ones in the States. I think they added some sort of flower in the mix, potentially jasmine. Either way, it was seriously amazing.)
ICE OR NOT: We were warned from multiple sources not to have ice in Southeast Asia, because there is a popular misconception that it’s made from local water.
Almost all of it is not. One of the few good effects of French colonization in the area is they introduced a really effective way to make clean ice. (“Pasteurization”, after all, comes from the great Frenchman, Louis Pasteur.)
The only way ice gets contaminated is if it’s transferred long distances covered with dirty blankets (which does happen). But, if you’re in a sit-down restaurant with menus that have English translations, you should be good on the ice.
YOGURT: One of the favorite treats I’ve had on the trip thus far was iced yogurt with strawberries. If you like yogurt, definitely give this one a try.
SHOP AROUND: Nearly every restaurant sells a wide selection of juice. If you go to a new place, ask to see the menu first. If they’re overpriced, just turn around and leave. You’re not obligated to buy anything because you looked at their menu.
If after trying something there, you don’t like that place’s juice, or if you just didn’t like the new fruit you tried, keep shopping. Don’t let one or two bad experiences keep you from the plethora of amazing juice treats in the area!
Should you ever happen to find yourself on this end of the word, do yourself a favor and step out of your comfort zone. Try some new fruits and some new ways of serving your favorites from back home. You won’t regret it.