A Liquid Alternative

West Coast, US breakfast

“Californians have been drinking smoothies as a healthy breakfast since the 1960s, but this concept really caught on in the 1990s when many people started to become more aware of the importance of natural foods for health and wellness. It is now pretty mainstream in the US, Australia, and even in Korea, the Philippines and Singapore,” says Luke Nguyen, a native of California and proprietor of the recently opened Guanabana smoothies juice bar.

With Vietnamese consumers growing more concerned about chemically tainted food and recent news about noodles being bleached does he believe this trend will catch on here in Saigon? “There is definitely a small but growing trend among health conscious Vietnamese of having smoothies for breakfast, because smoothies provide the energy and nutrients to get through the morning. Most people still find it strange to have a smoothie in place of a bowl of pho or other traditional meals. Whatever people choose to have for breakfast, I think what’s important is that they minimize industrialized processed food, and choose whole natural foods instead.”

Ingredients for blends like Strawberry Swirl, Tropic Thunder and Orange Bliss come from a few trusted fruit suppliers that have ties to local farms in Dalat, Dak Lak, Long Xuyen, Long An and other farms in the Mekong Delta, while the herbal and nutritional supplements are all imported from the US.

Oi-Vietnam-June-2014-guanabana_IMG_1066_NT

Supergreen (VND65,000 for a small, VND75,000 for a large) is one of its more popular morning smoothies and is made with organic wheatgrass, alfalfa, spirulina (a type of blue-green algae that is rich in protein, vitamins, minerals, and carotenoids), chlorella (an algae that contains Vitamin C and antioxidants), apple juice, strawberries, mangoes and bananas. Vegetable haters will rejoice as the smoothie was easy to drink ― the bitter leaves didn’t have a strong flavor because the apple juice cut through the blend, giving it a refreshing balance of both sweetness and tartness. None of the smoothies at Guanabana contain condensed milk or sweetened yogurt commonly found in Vietnamese smoothies sold from street carts and in cafes around the city.

“Foreigners typically drink smoothies during the day as a healthy breakfast, lunch, or afternoon snack. Vietnamese people traditionally drink sinh to as an evening dessert, one that is full of sugary condensed milk, which is why many of our Vietnamese customers are initially shocked by how sour our smoothies are,” says Luke. “However, about halfway through, our customers begin to appreciate the sweet and sour balance of the all natural fruit smoothies.”

And aside from the high vitamin and mineral content, these smoothies have probiotics from the frozen yogurt that aid digestion. Blending fruits and vegetables breaks open the plant cell walls that house the micronutrients far better than chewing can, allowing the nutrients to work wonders in the body. Blending also frees the mirosinases to produce anti-cancer compounds. All good news for those living in Ho Chi Minh City where pollution is getting worse and fast food franchises are seemingly opening up on every corner.

Guanabana: 23 Ly Tu Trong, D1

Images by Ngoc Tran

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