We're in the thick of eggnog season. While this traditional holiday drink is beloved to many (I have a soft spot for Borden’s), the milk, cream, egg white, egg yolk, and sugar combination makes eggnog about as heavy as a Starbucks White Chocolate Mocha with whip—which, let’s face it—is pretty much like downing a whole container of Häagen-Dazs. If you’re craving eggnog, but don’t have the time to nod off on a couch every time you drink a cup, here’s an cool alternative: Try Vietnamese soda sua hot ga.
A drink that literally translates to “soda, milk, egg yolk,” soda sua hot ga bears a striking resemblance to eggnog. It’s got that pale off-white milky color. It’s frothy on top. Egg is an essential part of the recipe.
But where eggnog uses heavy creams and egg whites and drinks like a super-thick cream, the consistency of soda sua hot ga is much lighter, similar to what you would get if you crossed Korea’s Yakult probiotic drink with Japan’s Ramune soft drink. And the best thing about it? Each sip tastes of softly sweetened custard, with a lingering fizz that tickles the tongue.
So what goes into soda sua hot ga and more importantly, how do you make it? For a tried and true recipe, I visited Pho Saigon, a family-run restaurant that has been operating continuously in in Houston’s Midtown area since 1998, and has locations across the city as well as outposts in Austin and Layfayette, LA. There, I met with Mechelle Tran and her mom, Rosie, who schooled me on how to make the perfect soda sua hot ga. It’s a drink they both know well; the family has been serving it since their restaurant opened and it’s quite popular with their customers.
To make it, you need three ingredients: soda, condensed milk, and an egg yolk. “Make sure you buy club soda,” Rosie told me in Vietnamese as she poured club soda into a glass containing condensed milk and two egg yolks. Stirring vigorously, she explained that the sodium bicarbonate and sodium citrate in the club soda are essential to the recipe.
“Don’t use water or seltzer water,” she says. “The club soda cooks the egg yolk so that you don’t have problems with salmonella.” (Note: If you're still concerned, opt for a pasteurized egg, which has been flash-heated to kill potential pathogens.)
The entire process takes less than a minute, producing about an inch of froth at the top of the glass. When she’s done, she pours the mixture over ice, then hands me the glass, telling me that I can adjust the sweetness by adding more club soda if needed. I take a sip. It’s perfect.
Soda Sua Hot Ga
Add 1 generous tablespoons of condensed milk into a tall, 12-ounce glass or larger. Add 1 large egg yolk or 2 small yolks. Pour club soda into glass, stirring quickly until yolk, condensed milk and soda water are evenly mixed and at least a 1/2 inch of froth appears at the top of the glass. Pour over ice and serve.
For a more eggnog-like flavor, add a couple drops of vanilla extract, stir, then sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg powder.