Ice Age

Photo by Jessica CalkinsLadies and geeks, say hola to global warming! The Southland weathered one of the balmiest Januarys on record, a muggy month in which Santa Ana registered no traceable rainfall for the first time in decades. Lake Powell is at its lowest level in 30 years, and the Antarctic is melting. Our recent deluge has made up for some lost ground and cooled things down a bit. But as the immense pointer finger of Bush II casts a shadow over the nuke button to kill innocent Iraqis, worldwide temperatures will soon be ratcheting up a couple of thousand more notches.

Most Orange Countians should regard the imminent inferno as training for the heat of hell they will no doubt one day suffer. However, even the worst sinners can still battle the coming Celsius calamity with the sleety smoothies of Orange County's favorite immigrant groups, the sinh to of Vietnam and Mexico's licuado.

The preparation of sinh to and licuados is sweetly simple: blend ice; add slices of fruits or vegetables; add a jigger of milk and a sprinkle of sugar; blend again. Drink. Blink off brain freeze. Repeat.

There's only one delicious difference between the two. Somewhere along the blending process, sinh to acquires a much frostier texture than licuados. Perhaps it's the dash of condensed milk added into sinh tos, or perhaps it's the sugar syrup used in licuados. But from two separate approaches, we reach the same conclusion: both beat any blended, iced drink on planet Doomed.

Vietnam and Mexico make some of the best smoothies because each uses fruits unique to their specific latitudes. Vietnam's humid foliage, for example, supports fruits as varied as the bubblegum-y jackfruit; passion fruit; and the notorious durian, a fleshy specimen whose taste lies somewhere between a noxious onion/garlic combo and vomit. Mexico, meanwhile, boasts of mamey (a football-shaped fruit that tastes like an earthier banana), tart nancé and papayas. Both cultures also share a fascination for soursop, although the Vietnamese call the slightly sharp fruit mang cau and Mexicans call it guananava. Everyone else calls it manna.

Sinh tos and licuados are deliciously ubiquitous in la naranja since many Mexican and Vietnamese restaurants sell their respective ice drinks. But an ideal place to slurp a sinh to is Westminster's Pho Hien Vuong Dakao. Located at the entrance of the cacophonous Asian Garden Mall, Pho Hien is one of the fancier fast-food places in the county. How many sit-down Vietnamese eateries, let alone fast-food places, offer audacious dishes like a green papaya salad dotted with dried beef livers or an escargot bún soup? But among these, the sinh to is the true item of veneration: smoother and slightly sweeter than those of other hawkers—and extremely affordable at two bucks per serving.

Alas, Mariscos Tampico in Santa Ana sells only average Mexican food, so stick to the liquid love blended at their adjacent licuado stand. Besides offering such standard sweet sensations as strawberry and pineapple, Mariscos Tampico also sells two elixirs named veneno (poison) and vampiro (vampire). Their monstrous monikers are inexplicable: each is an overdose of mmmm! Orange, pineapple and coconut constitutes the supposed toxin, while the blended bloodsucker squeezes 15 friggin' fruits into a small cup. The Mariscos Tampico troops also add in a great shake of chocomil (powdered chocolate) to make the already-sweet licuado sweeter.

But which is better? Only one way to find out: drink. Blink off brain freeze. Repeat. And pray that George W's handlers reel their baby in.

Pho Hien Vuong Dakao, located at 9200 Bolsa Ave., Ste. 306, Westminster, sells sinh tos from $2 to $4. (714) 897-4330; Mariscos Tampico, located at 220 E. Fourth St., Santa Ana, sells licuados from $1 to $3. (714) 667-0441.

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