Pho Vietnam: Soda Sua Hot Ga – The Bite
THE BITE: In our core mission statement, The Bite agreed to try out all sorts of foods. “If it’s edible, we’ll take a bite,” we boldy declared. Well, we may need to refine that statement a bit. What Ned meant when he wrote that was, “I’ll get that sucker Robert to eat this horrible disgusting stuff.”
It must have been the heat, or maybe it was his whining, but today I gave in. We haven’t traveled into the land of the bizarre and strange lately, but our publisher has been pushing me to try Soda Sua Hot Ga from one of the local Vietnamese restaurants for a long while.
After our last time trying something “exotic,” when Ned purchased canned roasted eel for my enjoyment, I wasn’t really ready to succumb to his latest plot. “He’s not seeking ‘good’ food,” I thought. “Just something disgusting.” He was foiled in his attempt last time as eel was a fairly common food during my youthful days in Long Island. Today, he was foiled again. Or was he?
Soda Sua Hot Ga is Vietnamese for “soda with yolk and condensed milk.”
“It’s got a yolk in it Robert. Try it,” Ned prodded me.
Frankly, the thought of drinking raw egg yolk didn’t bother me at all. As a child, my mother often “fortified” milkshakes with raw eggs. It made you strong, she would tell me. Then, back in 1976, Sylvester Stallone immortalized the drinking of raw eggs in the original Rocky movie. Hey, if Rocky could do it, so could I. I guess mom was right.
Googling this drink, I discovered that some folks have a theory that the egg yolk is “cooked” when combined with the sweetened condensed milk. I don’t buy that. It’s still raw egg to me. I’m a bit intrigued by the idea of this drink, though.
As I order the Soda Sua Hot Ga ($2.50), my only real concern is that it would contain the tapioca balls found often in the bubble teas so popular with the kids these days. I hate those slimy tapioca balls.
My other concern is the smirk on the waiter’s face and the conspiratorial wink Ned exchanged with him as I ordered. Now I was worried. What was I getting myself into?
The waitress brought over a 16-ounce plastic cup filled with a yellowish white liquid, topped with ice. Where the ice met the liquid, the color of the drink changed to a more golden, shall I say yolk-like, color. I took the lid off and looked into the drink. It looked like a thinned out version of buttermilk over ice. It also appeared to be flat. The carbonation wasn’t evident at all on first glance.
Some people refer to this drink as “bird’s nest drink.” I could see that. The golden top interweaved with ice of the otherwise white drink could resemble a bird’s nest if I was tripping. Should I have been?
It’s hard to put a finger on the exact taste and texture of this drink. It’s a bit of a cross between a milk shake and an egg cream. The carbonation levels are very similar to an egg cream, but the Soda Sua Hot Ga is much thicker. But, it’s not as thick or satisfying as a milk shake.
Taking a sip, I was really surprised. The carbonation was there, so was the taste of the egg yolk. What really intrigued me was the soda. I couldn’t put my finger on it. Was this made from ginger ale? (It wasn’t) Was it made from seltzer? (It was – Seagram’s brand to be exact.) It’s also made with Parrot brand sweetened condensed milk. I verified all these ingredients on the way out.
The flavor of the Soda Sua Hot Ga is very hard to pinpoint. I would have sworn it had some ginger in the mix and was a bit disappointed to discover that it didn’t. I’ve used condensed milk in other recipes and never experienced the ginger flavor. Was my mind inserting flavors that it thought I’d find in a Vietnamese drink? I don’t know.
I enjoyed this drink, but I don’t know if I’d seek it out again as I think it played havoc with my intestinal tract all evening and into the next morning. I guess mom’s invocation about drinking raw eggs making me strong doesn’t hold true in middle age. Now, it just makes me poop.
Pho Vietnam, 1243 Avenue U, (718) 998 2858.
The Bite is Sheepshead Bites’ weekly column where we explore the foodstuffs of Sheepshead Bay. Each week we check out a different offering from one of the many restaurants, delis, food carts, bakeries, butchers, fish mongers, or grocers in our neighborhood. If it’s edible, we’ll take a bite.
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