Nước Mía (Mía đá)

Fresh Sugarcane Juice

Vietnam's traditional sugarcane juice — a refreshing, sweet, and culturally rich beverage that encapsulates the vibrant essence of Vietnamese street life.

Price range from $0.3 to $0.8


Savoring the Sweetness of Vietnam: Discovering the Delight of Nước Mía, Vietnam’s Refreshing Sugarcane Juice

During my travels through Vietnam, I had the unforgettable experience of discovering Nước Mía, the local sugarcane juice. It was a typical humid day in Ho Chi Minh City, and I was wandering through a vibrant street market, buzzing with the energy of daily life. Amidst the various stalls, my ears caught the distinct sound of sugarcane stalks being crushed. My curiosity led me to a small, bustling stand where a vendor was extracting this bright yellow-green juice from freshly peeled sugarcane.

The sight of the frothy, verdant liquid being poured over ice was enticing. I had never seen anything like it back home. Hesitantly, I ordered a glass, greeted by a friendly nod from the vendor. As I took my first sip, the sweet, refreshing taste exploded on my palate, a stark contrast to any fruit juice I’d ever had. It was a revelation – the perfect blend of sweetness and refreshment, with a subtle hint of earthiness.

Drinking that glass of Nước Mía, I felt an instant connection to the local culture and way of life.

As I later learned, Nước Mía, also known as Mía đá, is a refreshing and popular beverage in Vietnam, especially beloved during the hot and humid months. This drink is made from sugarcane, a tall, perennial grass originating in Southeast Asia. Nước Mía is essentially freshly extracted sugarcane juice, often served over ice, making it a perfect antidote to the sweltering Vietnamese climate.

Origin and popularity

Sugarcane cultivation has a long history in Vietnam, with the country being one of the largest sugarcane producers in the world. The practice of juicing sugarcane for a refreshing drink likely began as a simple, effective way for farmers to quench their thirst. Over time, it evolved into a popular street food beverage, available throughout Vietnam.

Apart from being delicious, sugarcane juice is also nutritious. It’s a natural source of energy, rich in essential nutrients like calcium, potassium, and magnesium. It’s also a good hydrator, making it an excellent drink for replenishing lost fluids and electrolytes.

Vietnamese Sugarcane Juice - Nuoc Mia

Best places to buy and cost

Nước Mía is best enjoyed at local street food markets or from roadside vendors, where it’s made fresh in front of customers. These vendors are ubiquitous in cities like Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Da Nang. The cost is incredibly affordable, usually ranging from 5,000 to 10,000 VND (about 0.20 to 0.80 USD), making it a popular choice for both locals and tourists.

Nước Mía is also often sold alongside other popular Asian beverages. Just look for a sign that says “Nuoc Mia”. A kind of a boxy-looking stall with something that resembles a mangle or wringer inside. Two rollers in a sturdy frame connected by cogs, sometimes powered by a hand crank or electric engine. The mechanism is used to press the sugarcane sticks and squeeze the juice out of them. That’s your sugarcane juice seller.

Vietnamese Sugarcane Juice - Nuoc Mia

The sugarcane sticks get pressed through the rollers a few times until there is no liquid left in them and the leftovers (mangled sticks) are then thrown into a box usually in front of the stall. Another sign that you stumbled upon sugarcane stall – the sugarcane carcasses left in a pile in front of the machine.

Sugarcane Juice in Vietnam - Nuoc-Mia
Sugarcane Water is squeezed from the stick (on the left) through the press machine (middle) and mixed with generous amount of ice, and served in plastic cups (on the right).

Take aways

In summary, Nước Mía is not just a drink but an experience, encapsulating the simplicity, resourcefulness, and warmth of Vietnamese culture. Its affordability, nutritional benefits, and delicious taste make it a must-try for anyone visiting Vietnam.

Drinking that glass of Nước Mía, I felt an instant connection to the local culture and way of life. It was more than just a drink; it was a glimpse into the heart of Vietnam, a moment of shared experience with the bustling life of the city. That refreshing glass of sugarcane juice remains one of the most memorable highlights of my journey, a sweet reminder of the simple yet profound joys of travel.

Drinks of Vietnam