Winter Melon Tea (Tra bi dao) is a tasty drink which is said to have cooling and detox effects in Vietnam. Learn the easy way to make this tea at home.
In Vietnam, we call this winter melon drink trà bí đao (or nước bí đao, sâm bí đao). The tea is made from winter melon, rock sugar and some additional ingredients. There are more than one method to make it, and today I’m sharing one of the easiest ways.
For this Vietnamese winter melon tea recipe, you will need:
- winter melon: an oblong mild-tasting Asian squash/fruit with dark green skin. It is often used as a vegetable in some Asian cuisines and is considered to be a cooling food. You can easily buy it at Asian grocery stores.
- dried longan: it is made by sun-drying fresh longan and is believed to have benefits such as reducing stress. You can find it at Asian grocery stores, or make it at home by following my instructions for oven-drying longan.
- rock sugar: you can use either yellow or white rock sugar. Rock sugar is commonly used in a lot of Vietnamese sweet dessert soups (such as sweet corn pudding) and in some noodle broth (such as beef pho noodle soup and mi vit tiem). This type of sugar can be found at Asian grocery places or on Amazon.
As I said earlier, there are more than one way to make winter melon tea depending on the additional ingredients used besides winter melon and rock sugar. I like to add dried longan since it is easy to find and can add some subtle flavors and sweetness.
Other ingredients that can be added are a little harder to find such as monk’s fruit (la hán quả) and rehmannia root (thục địa). These two ingredients will add more medicinal effects to the tea. Pandan leaves can also be added.
I recommend using mature winter melon since the young/immature one can impart a sour taste to the drink. I usually buy winter melon and leave it in the refrigerator (or at room temperature if it’s not hot) for a week before making the tea.
How to Make Winter Melon Tea
In Vietnam, people may choose to buy dried winter melon to make tra bi dao. I usually make it from the fresh fruit. The first step you need to do is to remove the spongy center with seeds because it can give the drink a sour taste.
Next, cut into slices and grill them until they are lightly charred and dried out a little bit. If we skip this step, the drink can taste like vegetable stock with little flavors. I grill them on the stovetop with my Staub grill pan. You can also use a Lodge cast iron pan.
Once you have finished grilling winter melon slices, simmer them with water, rock sugar and dried longan for 90-120 minutes. And that’s it!
How to Serve and Store Winter Melon Tea
You can enjoy this winter melon tea either warm or cold, and with and without ice. Nowadays, younger people even add some chia seeds before drinking. The tea can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight bottle for about 3 days.
Since this tea has a cooling effect, it is best not to drink it too frequently. Also, I don’t recommend drinking it late in the evening. Nothing serious to worry about, just enjoy it in moderation like with any other food :).
More Tea Recipes to Try
I’d love to hear what you think about the drink, so please feel free to leave a comment and a rating if you have tried it. New recipes are added every week so let’s connect on Facebook, Youtube, Pinterest and Instagram for the latest updates. You can find my collection of Vietnamese recipes here.
Winter Melon Tea
- 2.5 lbs winter melon, washed and pat dry
- 1 oz dried longan, rinsed (about ¼ cup)
- 3 tablespoons rock sugar (or more, to taste)
- 6 cups water
- Cut off the very top and bottom parts. Quarter it lengthwise and discard the white spongy part with seeds in the center. Then cut into 1-1½ inch wide and 3-4 inch long pieces.
- Heat a grill pan (or a cast iron pan) over medium heat until it is very hot. Add the winter melon slices in a single layer skin side down. Grill for about 8-10 minutes until the skin is lightly charred. Increase the heat up to medium-high if needed. Rotate the winter melon slices to grill all the other sides until they are lightly charred and look a little dried out. Remove from the grill pan.
- Place the dried longan, rock sugar and charred winter melon slices in a medium pot. Add water and then place the pan over medium heat. Once the water starts to boil, reduce to low heat to maintain a very gentle simmer. Cover the pot and simmer for 90-120 minutes.
- Strain the tea and let it cool before storing in an air-tight bottle in the refrigerator. It can be enjoyed either warm or chilled (with or without ice).