Bambu Desserts & Drinks is a drink shop chain that began with the aspiration of four Vietnamese sisters to bring their favorite, traditional drinks into the heart of a Vietnamese community in San Jose, California. Their fresh menu of exotic and lively teas, real fruit smoothies, and boba captivated many others along with the Bay Area and so began the spread of the Vietnamese-themed drinks franchise. From 2008 until today, Bambu Desserts & Drinks has over 70 locations in 22 states and Canada.
The brand takes great confidence in its vegetarian menu, in fact, most of its items are plant-based. A few of their desserts aren’t vegan and cannot be made so because they use dairy milk as a base.
Apparently, their menu items are quite intriguing and so I’ll be listing all of their available vegan-friendly options and their price info, and also the ones that can be made vegan.
In Bambu, they serve many kinds of drinks and desserts like Che, milk tea boba, teas, coffee, jellies, jello, and fruit smoothies, most of which are vegan, but there are a few exceptions.
Allow me also to fill you in about their unique Southeast Asian ingredients so that I won’t have to explain them every time they’re mentioned and you won’t be confused each time.
- Pandan Jelly is made from pandan leaf water and tapioca starch and is commonly mixed with coconut milk to bring out the “Buko Pandan” flavor that many Southeast Asians love.
- Longan is a popular fruit in Southeast Asia that is a cousin to lychee. It has a white flesh encapsulating black seeds, and it almost tastes and feels like a grape, but with a more distinct flavor. According to WebMD, longan is a super fruit rich in vitamin C.
- Basil Seeds are Southeast Asia’s sesame seeds, and is incredibly rich in essential minerals and omega-3 fatty acids. As a vegan, you should definitely try seasoning this into your foods for added nutrition. There’s more benefits and uses for basil seeds as explained by Healthline.
- Mung Beans are a personal favorite of mine simply because they have a scrumptious nutty taste and pasty texture, and they have a plethora of uses for savory and sweet dishes. They’re also a staple beans in the Southeast Asia because they’re rich in protein and antioxidants, but very low in fats. The red and white variants are especially used for desserts and can be mushed into paste for delicious bread fillings.
- Red Beans shouldn’t be confused with the red mung beans or adzuki, but they’re more well-known in the states as kidney beans.
- Grass Jelly is Bambu’s homemade jelly that isn’t made from literal lawn grass, but from rom stalks, leaves, potassium carbonate, and tapioca starch.
- Combo Jelly from Bambu is made of agar-agar which is a gelatinous extract from a special seaweed.
- Flavored and Colored Jellies have a nada de coco base.
All these ingredients are naturally plant-based, therefore vegan. Now that we’ve gotten those out the way, let’s start first with their most popular menu, the Vietnamese Che.
Vietnamese Che or Che Vietnam is a traditional Vietnamese sweet beverage, dessert soup, or pudding. It’s usually made with different beans, jellies, fruit, and coconut cream. It may also be made with coconut milk or coconut water and sprinkled with some seeds. It can be served either cold or hot, but in Bambu, they are only served with shaved ice and as a beverage.
All of their Che drinks are soy- and gluten-free since they mostly use coconut milk or coconut water, except the Smashed Avocado as it comes with condensed milk sweetener, but that can be substituted with coconut milk to make it vegan.
They also allow you to customize your own drink with up to 5 ingredients of your choice and either coconut milk or coconut water as the liquid. The coconut milk base costs $5.50 while the coconut water costs $6.25. Coconut water is usually more expensive because it comes from very fresh and young coconuts.
- Bambu Special – coconut, pandan jelly, longan, basil seed, and coconut water. Costs 6.25.
- Bambu Combo – red, white, mung beans; taro, pearls, pandan jelly, combo jelly, and coconut milk. Costs 5.25.
- Awesome Trio – red, white, mung beans; taro, pandan jelly, and coconut milk. Costs 5.25.
- Summer Delight – red tapioca, mung beans, coconut milk, jello, grass jelly, and pandan jelly. Costs 5.25.
- Fruit Addict – lychee, longan, red tapioca, jackfruit, palm seed, jello, pandan jelly, coconut flesh, and coconut milk. Costs 5.50.
- Longan Sunrise – basil seed and longan with juice. Costs 5.25.
- Green Bean Jelly – contains green beans, grass and pandan jellies, and coconut milk. Costs 5.25.
- Red Bean Combo – red beans, taro, pandan jelly, and coconut milk. Costs 5.25.
- Bambu Favorite – red tapioca, grass jelly, pandan jelly, and coconut milk. Costs 5.25.
- Coconut Combo – coconut, lotus seed, longan, jello, and coconut water. Costs 6.25.
- Taro Lover – taro, pandan jelly, and coconut milk. Costs 5.25.
- Green Lantern – mung beans, pandan jelly, and coconut milk. Costs 5.25.
- Lychee Jello – jello, lychee, and coconut water. Costs 6.25.
- Thousand Eyes – basil seed and grass jelly. Costs 4.95.
Teas & Milk Teas
Teas are commonly served without milk, but you can ask for coconut milk to add extra cream. All milk teas are served with boba but the milk can be replaced with almond or coconut milk.
- Jasmine (green)
- Oolong (fermented and withered leaves from the Camellia Sinensis Plant and is between the fermentation process of green and black tea)
- Green Apple
- Mint Green
- Passion Fruit
- Red Bean
- Green Bean
Fresh Fruit Teas
They’re best served without milk, but it’s optional. They don’t come with boba but with real fruit bits instead.
Sea Salt Teas
No, they don’t taste salty, but they bring out the taste of the tea and help keep the ice cool.
- Iced Oolong
- Iced Green
- Iced Black
- Matcha Green
They have options of hazelnut, almond, and coconut milk instead of dairy. They also have hot, cold, and blended options ranging from 3.75, 4, and 4.50 respectively. You also get two free add-ins of your choice, more of that here.
- Cafe Latte
- Cafe Mocha
- French Vanilla
- Vietnamese Traditional
- Vietnamese Black
- Coconut Mocha
- Sea Salt Foam Coffee
All of their smoothies use dairy milk as default, but coconut milk can be substituted.
- Green Bean
- Kiwi Strawberry
- Mango Dazzle
- Orange Chiller
- Papaya Citrus
- Passion in Love
- Peach Catalina
- Pina Colada
- Raspberry Rama
- Red Bean
- Strawberry Banana
- Strawberry Taro
- Taro Coconut
- Verry Berry
Expensive and exotic fruits call for premium quality and prices.
- Avocado Coffee
- Avocado Coconut
- Passion Fruit
- Pennywort & Mung Bean
- Pennywort & Coconut (6.25)
- Nuo Mat Bambu – agar-agar, basil seeds, crystal tapioca, coconut meat slices, and coconut water. Costs 6.25
Flavored shaved ice with two free toppings of choice. Don’t forget to remind them not to put any dairy milk as that may happen.
- Green Tea
- Red Bean
A favorite shaved ice dessert originating from the Philippines with beans, jellies, seeds, and some fruit mixed in. Ask for coconut milk instead of dairy to make it 100% vegan.
Sad to say that their yogurts, macarons, most of their ice cream, and waffles aren’t vegan. However, their coconut ice cream may be vegan, you can ask your server. Their mochi cupcakes may also be vegan since mochi is naturally plant-based and dairy-free, but consider asking for that one as well as sometimes they use butter or buttermilk in the cupcake mix.
The desserts and drinks found in Bambu are always highly rated by vegans and commoners alike, but the service recommendations are quite mixed and inconsistent. I guess the service part goes by your luck.
They don’t tag any of their menu items as vegan, as I’ve said they’re more inclined to say they’re vegetarian-friendly, but that’s not a big issue since you can always ask your server to simply substitute the dairy with coconut or almond milk instead. I’m not sure yet if they’re willing to offer vegan-friendly customs for their solid desserts like using coconut cream instead of butter and coconut milk instead of dairy milk, but I hope that they do so in the future.
All in all, it’s a great shop to visit for some refreshing and relaxing drinks with the taste of Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries. It’s very accommodating for vegans and you definitely won’t run out of great vegan choices here.