This Classic Vietnamese Plum Soda is perfectly sweet, salty, and sour. It's so refreshing and gives a pleasant jolt to the senses.
I'm not surprised if this is the first time a lot of you are hearing about this drink. It doesn't seem to be popular; which is a crime. Believe me when I say that the Vietnamese plum drink (called Soda XI Muoi in Vietnam) is underrated. It is so good that I'm honestly surprised that it hasn't caught on state side.
In one of my current excursions to the market, I came across a curious little thing called Umeboshi. These maroon-ish, round wrinkled fruits caught my eye. After finding out that these are Japanese fermented plums, I knew I had to try it out.
The particular Umeboshi that I found were fermented with shiso or beefsteak plant, which is a cultigen of Perilla frutescens, a herb in the mint family. Shiso is quite a flavorful herb that is often eaten with tuna or salmon (so I’ve heard...or should I say read). The flavor is hard to describe because it tastes like a mixture of different herbs and spices. One thing is for sure -- it is intensely sour and bright.
What is Umeboshi?
In the simplest terms, Umeboshi is a Japanese food made from pickled Japanese plums. The word "ume" means plum, while "boshi" means salt. It is often used for seasoning dishes but it can also be eaten alone like candy and is believed to help settle an upset stomach. Because it is fermented, it makes total sense that Umeboshi is considered a health food in Japan.
Not all Umeboshi is fermented with shiso. Some are just steeped in plain brine. In the recipe that I'm sharing, it's not necessary to get Umeboshi or Umeboshi with shiso. Any kind of salted plums (or fermented plums) will do. You don't even have to get salted plums from Vietnam (even if we are making what is technically a Vietnamese plum drink). If you go to an Asian store, you'll quickly find out that salted plums can be from different Asian countries like Taiwan or China.
What does salted plum soda taste like?
I know the expression 'abso-frickin-lutely wonderful' will make you want to try it but won't translate what the drink actually tastes like. To be honest, it's kinda difficult to describe but here's my best shot at it: It is sweet at first then followed by a distinct combination of salty and sour flavors. As you get to the bottom of your glass, the flavor of the fermented plums and mint get stronger but everything stays well-rounded thanks to the simple syrup.
Ingredients to make this Salted Plum Drink
- Salty Plums (AKA: Pickled Plums) - Any kind of salted plums (or fermented plums) will do. It can be confusing to choose which salted plums to buy given that there are likely many options at your Asian grocer. Some fermented plums might be in jars while some might be in small trays or in small plastic packages. You might even come across dried plums (which are similar to fermented plums in terms of flavor)!
- Simple Syrup - Easy to make with just 2 ingredients (sugar and water). Full recipe is in the recipe card.
- Mint Leaves - To enhance freshness and flavor.
- Lime Juice - Freshly squeezed for best results.
- Sparkling Water (Club soda) - Do not use flavored.
- Ice Cubes - It is best served chilled.
See recipe card for quantities.
Step by Step Instructions
It literally takes less than 5 minutes to make this drink! Let's start by using a 10 to 12 ounce glass to make this salted plum drink.
First, break the salty plums and mint by pushing down with a thin spoon or metal straw. This is to release flavor.
Then, add the rest of the ingredients in the following order: ice, simple syrup, lime juice, and and sparkling water (pour all the way up; ½" below the rim).
Finally, stir well with a spoon before serving.
Don't let the options overwhelm you with the salty plums. It's fine whether you get something labeled 'Fermented Plums' or 'Salted Plums' or 'Plums in Brine'. It doesn't matter if you get them in a jar or plastic packaging (although it's more friendly to the environment to choose the jar). Just don't buy the dried ones.
More easy Asian-Style Cooking Recipes
- Lemongrass Ramen Noodles
- Chili Garlic Green Beans
- Red Thai Curry
- No-Fry Crispy Tofu
- Jackfruit Lettuce Wraps
Classic Vietnamese Plum Soda
- 1 cup water
- 1 ½ cups sugar I've used brown sugar, but white will do too
- 4 whole pickled plums or salted plums
- 6 whole mint leaves
- 2 tablespoon simple syrup
- 1 tablespoon lime juice freshly squeezed
- ¾ cup sparkling water or soda water it has to fill your glass to the top
- ice cubes as needed; some like more than others
If you don't have simple syrup on hand, don't fret! It is very easy to make:
- In a small saucepan, combine water and sugar. On low heat stir until simmering. Remove from heat once the sugar dissolves. (Note: Do not wait for it to boil.)
- Let the syrup sit for about 15 minutes and let it cool. Pour the syrup into a mason jar and refrigerate. Use as needed.
- Now that you have your sugar syrup, let's make that drink! In a 12 ounce glass, add the 4 pieces of pickled plums and mint leaves. Using a thin spoon or metal straw, break the plums and mint apart so the salty and minty flavors are released.
- Then add the rest of the ingredients in the following order: ice, simple syrup, lime juice, and and sparkling water (pour all the way up; ½" below the rim)
- Add a mint leaf and lime wedge on the rim of your glass as garnish (I like to throw one in my drink too).