Refreshing beverage for the upcoming summer season


Photo by Hiedi Lee

Naam Vaam will really bring the summer feeling with its bright color and delicious taste.

Happy spring! During this festive season, cultural drinks from around the world are shared to celebrate the beginning of a blooming season. In the Thai, Vietnamese and Hmong community, a single drink would be made in order to celebrate the colors of spring. That beverage is called Naam Vaam (Nah-Vah), also known as “Tri-color” in English, and it’s so unique and delicious that it deserves to be shared with everyone!

The first thing you need to know about Naam Vaam is that it is a dessert. It is a sweetened coconut drink that contains cendol (an iced rice flour-based tapioca mixture), coconut syrup, coconut jellies, and sago (starch derived from tropical palm stems) pearls. Possible toppings for Naam Vaam are endless, and you can mix and match as you please to get your desired flavor! One staple that stays the same in all Naam Vaam recipes, though, is the base, which you can learn how to make below:

Making the Coconut syrup


  • 2 lb 4 oz of palm sugar 
  • 2 cups of coconut milk
  • 1 ½ tsp of salt
  • 1 cup of water 
  • 5 drops pandan flavoring (available in most groceries but especially Asian grocers like United Noodles, 88 Oriental Foods, Shuang Hur Supermarket, and Dragon Star Supermarket) 


1) In a pot, boil the water and then add in the palm sugar, melting the sugar on low heat until fully dissolved. 

2) Once dissolved, add in the coconut milk, salt and pandan flavoring. 

3) Stir the mixture and continue to let it simmer on low heat for another 10-15 minutes. 

4) Once simmering, let the syrup cool in the fridge or overnight.

Making the Cendol:


  • 1 packet of rice flour 
  • 3 tbsp of tapioca starch 
  • 10 cups of water 
  • ½ tsp of salt
  • 3-5 pandan leaves (available in Asian supermarket, such as 88 Oriental Foods, Shuang Hur Supermarket, and Dragon Star Supermarket )
  • 2 cups of ice


  1. Chop the pandan leaves into thin pieces, and then place inside a blender with four cups of water. Blend until smooth. 
  2. Strain the mixture over a strainer, collecting all of the pandan leaves into a separate bowl. Once fully strained, discard the pandan pulp. 
  3. With the remaining mixture, add in six more cups of water, mixing them together.
  4. Add in the whole packet of rice flour, along with the tapioca starch and the salt.
  5. Mix everything together with a spatula until fully combined. 
  6. Place the mixture over medium heat and continue mixing until it becomes a thick consistency. Cook for 10-15 minutes, constantly stirring.
  7. Once the consistency of the cendol becomes silky and shiny, gliding off the spatula effortlessly, take it off the heat. 
  8. Fill another bowl with ice water and grab a cooking press.
  9. Over the ice water, place the cendol press (available on Amazon, though a potato ricer or even straining ladle would do the trick) above the water, slowly placing the cendol batter into the press. 
  10.  The cendol mixture will slowly fall into the ice water, creating long to medium strands of cendol. Continue until the batter runs out, leaving the cendol to soak in the water until assembly. 

Making the sago pearls:


  • 1 bag of sago pearls 
  • Food coloring (optional) 
  • 3 quarts of water 


  1. Fill a medium-sized pot with water and let it come to a boil. 
  2. Once the water is boiled, add in the bag of sago pearls and stir. 
  3. Continue stirring and boiling for 5-7 minutes until the pearls soften. 
  4. Turn off the heat and let the softened pearls sit for 15 minutes.
  5. Strain the remaining water and rinse the pearls under cold running water. 
  6. If the tri-colored effect is desired, separate the pearls into three bowls and add 1-2 drops of food coloring to each bowl, stirring until incorporated. 


After all of the above preparations are done, it is time to assemble the drink:

  1. Grab a cup of any desired size and add equal amounts of the cendol and sago pearls (add ice if wanted)
  2. Add in the coconut syrup until it reaches the desired amount (it should cover the toppings).
  3. Stir everything together.
  4. Taste and adjust to your preference.
  5. Enjoy!

Additional possible toppings include:

  • Shaved ice
  • Condensed milk
  • Fruit slices 
  • Jello 

Enjoy this tasty drink this sunny season! It is refreshing, sweet and full of flavor — a perfect combination that includes all the elements of spring. As the trees and flowers bloom outside, why not indulge and prepare a drink that will cause you to be wonderstruck by just a sip!