Aloe Vera Drink – Nuoc Nha Dam

This was the day I showed my little man how to make sweet Vietnamese aloe vera drink with basil seeds and flavored with pandan leaves. I remembered drinking sweet aloe vera drinks sold in bottles at the Asian markets all the time when I was a kid. Now my kids the other day saw the drinks the other day on the shelves at the market and asked me to buy them some. It was kinda expensive for $3.99 a liter bottle with preservatives. I thought it would be a fun experience to make a fresh pitcher of aloe vera drink at home for them.

  • Prep and cook time: 30 minutes
  • Servings: 1 gallon and two quarts or about 6 liters

This is how my aloe vera plant looks like in April 2019 compared to June 2020. When harvesting aloe vera leaves, start with the leaf from the outer most toward the base and break or tear the leaves off as close to the stalk as you can.

Ingredients:

  • 8 to 12 large aloe vera leaves
  • 5 liter water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1.5 – 2 cup pure cane sugar
  • 4 – 6 fresh pandan leaves
  • 3 tablespoon basil seeds
  • water + 4 tsp salt (for soaking aloe vera)

Notes: This drink traditionally uses rock sugar in many recipes but I never used rock sugar and my folks says rock sugar makes the sweet drink taste better too. I would use pure cane sugar or pure palm sugar instead. Chia seeds is a great and healthy substitute for basil seeds. The reaction for either when soaked in water are the same.

Direction:

1. Make the bowl of salted water to soak the aloe vera later. Fill it a large bowl 2/3 way with water and add 2 teaspoons of salt. Stir the salted water well. Set aside.

2. Wash the aloe vera leaves and then cut each leaf in halves. Discard the tip and cut off the bottom part where you see the white part is showing. That white part is the most bitter part of the aloe vera. I just toss it into my compost bin.

3. Peel the aloe vera skin. Using a knife, cut down both thorny sides of the aloe vera first. Then slice off the thick layer of of the skin to remove the latex, which gives the bitter taste if you don’t remove it well. [Aloe latex comes from just under the plant’s skin and is yellow in color. (Web MD)]

3. Gently rinse the chunky aloe vera and then soak the pieces in the bowl of salted water.

4. The aloe vera would still be slimy but it’s okay, the prepping process is not over yet. My little man had fun experimenting with the aloe vera and slimy water. He smeared the slimy water all over his face, arms, and legs and then tried to get my attention expecting me to praise him. Ugh, I don’t think so. Anyway, once all the chunky peeled aloe vera pieces are in the salted bowl of water, soak it for five minutes.

5. While the aloe vera is soaking in the salted water, heat up 5 liters of water with at least 1.5 cup of pure cane sugar and one teaspoon of salt in a 12-quart pot. (I used a 6-quart pot at first but ended up transferring to a 12-quart pot because I realized the 6-quart was too small.) Cover the pot with a lid and bring the pot to a boil on medium heat.

6. While waiting for the sugared water to boil, strain the aloe vera into a colander over running water. Then diced each chunky pieces small enough that it should fit through a jumbo size straw or AKA boba straw. Prepare a bowl of iced water. Put the diced aloe vera into a bowl with water and two teaspoon of salt. With running water, grab a handful of diced aloe vera at a time and use both palms of your hands to gently lather or rinse off the remaining slimy texture. Then immediately place the diced pieces into the bowl of iced water. When all diced pieces are in the bowl of iced water, soak it in there for about 10 minutes. This step will give the aloe vera a slightly crunchy texture.

7. While soaking the diced aloe vera in the iced water bath, bring the sugared water to a boil. Add in the pandan leaves. I folded into thirds and use the longest leaf to wrap around the bundle and tie a knot to hold the leaves in place. The pandan leaves are added for the pandan aroma. So only boil it in the pot for two to four minutes long and then take it out.

8. Once the sugared water is boiling, turn the heat to medium. Quickly strain the diced aloe vera in a colander and immediately add it to the pot. Cook for just two minutes, no longer than that. Turn off the stove, remove the pot from the heat, and let the aloe vera juice cool.

9. As the aloe vera juice is cooling off, you can see the aloe vera will become transparent. Soak the basil seeds or chia seeds in cold filtered water. Then add them to the aloe vera juice. Store the aloe vera juice in bottles or a tightly closed pitcher in the refrigerator. Enjoy!

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