Vietnamese three color drink – Nab Vam

Tri color dessert
Tri-color dessert - Nab Vam



Total preparation and cooking: 2 hours & 30 minutes.

This sweet drink is a Vietnamese way of making Nab Vam. It’s not only appealing to look at but it will definitely satisfy your sweet cravings. No need to go to the restaurants anymore as I am giving you the secret recipe right here 🙂 It does require some time to make, but it’s well worth making for a good crowd on any occasion.

Ingredients for 8 servings:

  • 1 coconut milk can
  • Crushed ice


  • 2 cups of sugar &1 cup of water

For Green layer:

  • 3 oz. agar agar powder  (found at asian store- jello aisle)
  • 2 cups of pandan extract (found at fruits cans aisle)
  • 1 cup of water

For Yellow layer:

  • 1 cup of dry yellow mung beans
  • ½ cup of sugar
  • ¼ cup tapioca starch
  • ½ cup coconut milk

For Red layer:

  • A few drops of red food coloring
  • 16 oz of water chestnuts (found in fruits cans aisle)
  • 2 cups of tapioca starch

Special Cooking Utensils:

  • Steamer, strainer, several mixing bowls, pots, 1 square pan
  1. Soak yellow mung beans for 2 hours. Prepare the green layer by boiling the pandan extract and water in a pot. Stir in the powder and stir for 2 minutes then transfer it into a square pan and chill in the fridge for 2 hours.
  2. During the wait, start the red layer. Boil about 2 quarts of water. Rinse the water chestnuts and quarter each (cut each into 4 equal parts).  Once the water starts boiling, mix a few drops of red color into the water chestnuts, then coat the water chestnuts with tapioca starch thoroughly on a strainer, sifting excess tapioca. They should be coated as well as a powdered donut. Immediately put handfuls of coated water chestnuts into the boiling water. Boil for 5 minutes. Gently scoop the water chestnuts with a big spoon and transfer them into a bowl of ice cold water and set aside. (you do this to keep them from sticking onto each other). you are now done with the red layer.
  3. Now, prepare the syrup. In a small pot, bring the water to a boil and add the sugar. Stir constantly for a minute then transfer it into a bowl and chill in the fridge.
  4. When the yellow mung beans are done soaking, steam them for 20 minutes in a steamer. During this wait, take out the green jello of the square pan. It should slide out easily. This particular jello makes cutting eating. The easy way to make thin green jello strips, is to cut as thin as u can vertically, then horizontally. Transfer them into a bowl and set aside. you are now done with the green layer
  5. When the yellow mung beans are cooked, transfer them into a bowl and pour the rest of the “yellow layer” ingredients into the bowl and mix with a hand beater (or a blender) for just a minute. you are now done with the yellow layer.
  6. Finally, you can mix everything in a big bowl OR do individual glass cups. For individual glass cups, layer top to bottom: yellow, green, red layer and then crushed ice, with a couple spoonfuls of the syrup and coconut milk.

9 thoughts on “Vietnamese three color drink – Nab Vam

  1. hello,
    your nab vam look very good, but you didn’t really explain how the “yellow layer” was cook, like i get the begin but you stop at the part where the blender. i got lost there. do you eat it like that or do you have to cook it because from what i think the tapioca starch isn’t cook yet. so what do i do next ?!? thank you

  2. I was hoping you would know the recipe to making those tear drops called khawj lauj xoom in lao? Knowing how people, they would not share the recipe.

  3. Yes, generally not many people are willing to share recipes, that we know very well in our Hmong community. Sadly, I do not know the secret to making khawj lauj xoom. If you ever figure it out, do let me know 🙂

  4. hi…
    my sister in law, that whom is older then me by 10 yrs…(i’m 28 btw) i’ve watched her make those tear drops once… its alot of work.. this is how she made it.. i think she had used the same powder that you make seasame ball with to make it or it might of been another kind of that sort. she boiled water and mixed the powder into the boiling water and let it gel up stiring it constantly while its still on the stove, and then added food color or you can use that agar agar food coloring- it was green. then she takes out a big traditional rice cooker with medium size holes and the base. filled the bottom with cold water. put the top pot on and poured the gel like stuff into the top pot and then started to kneed it slowly so the gel would slowly fall into the bottom cold pot to set. you can’t rush druing this process other wise they will look very stingy rather then the tear drop look. hope this helps a little. yes its very messy and sticky.

  5. Lee thank you for taking the time to share the information. You are right for that is to make the green worm-like tapioca strings for the multicolor dessert nabvam. there will be an easier way to make these from now on. We will introduce a person’s nabvam’s easy machine maker along with another nabvam dessert version shortly. stay tune!

  6. Hello,
    Thank you so much for sharing this recipe. I’ve been craving for this desert and had always wanted to try to make it. I usually buy it but they’re always too sweet.

  7. Kelly, you may already know that you will not find this recipe much else where. Also, there is another and simpler version of making Nab Vam. you can search for it if you look to your right side of the screen- a quick way to search for recipes if you know the name. or just look for it in the dessert category on this website.

  8. The green tear drop is called cendol noodles in vietnamese. They have a recipes for it. Made from water, pandon flavouring, tapioca flour and rice flour

  9. Paj, thanks for the info. I’m going to give it a try! I remember my mom doing this a while ago. Lots of work.

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