Warding off the winter cold with a glass of hot soy milk in Vietnamese mountain retreat
In the chilly hills of Da Lat in Vietnam’s Central Highlands, you don't have to wander far if you're craving a glass of hot soy milk.
Soy milk is available at so many restaurants and coffee shops in town that it might as well be recognized as the town's official beverage.
Yet there is still one place that stands out.
Hoa Sua at the corner of Tang Bat Ho and Truong Cong Dinh specializes in soy milk, and does it so well it draws hundreds of customers every night.
The shop’s soy milk is not much different from other places, slightly sweet with hint of pandan leaves.
What makes it so special are the options on offer, such as mixtures of soy and peanut milk, soy and mung beans, and soy with fresh cow's milk. There are several dairy farms in town.
[Video by Phong Vinh]
Glasses of milk are filled up from pots sitting on charcoal burners, each for around VND9,000, or 40 U.S. cents. Extra custards or croissants cost more, although the cakes might be a bit tough in the cool air.
The servings come on a plastic table with customers sitting around on plastic stools so close together you can listen to the gossip from the other tables. Try not to laugh too hard.
It can get a bit hectic, with a lot of "anh oi" (hey bro!) from customers who want to order, and "nuoc soi!" (boiling water!) from waiters who want to alert customers.
To some people, the atmosphere is all that matters.
“I’ve been stopping by this place for the past five years. The drinks aren't that special but there are lots of people. It feels warm,’ said Thanh Phong, a visitor from the southern province of Binh Phuoc Province.
The shop opens from 7 p.m. until late at night, when temperatures usually drop to around 13 degrees Celsius (56 degrees Fahrenheit), giving people more reason to pack in.