Before visiting Vietnam, I’d read lots of raving accounts about Vietnamese coffee. Earlier this May, when Mr. P and I visited Saigon together with my folks, I of course made it a point to try the local coffee. We arrived to a scorching sun, and during our first outing to the Ben Thanh market, we stopped by a little roadside stall for drinks to quench our thirst. Perched on a stool beside a low table, I had my virgin taste of ca phe da, or iced Vietnamese black coffee. It was strong and flavourful, so unlike the watery versions often encountered in Bangkok and Singapore. Now I know why so many people sing praises of Vietnamese coffee. And for the subsequent three days in the city, I’d always order a cup of Vietnamese coffee for breakfast.
Before leaving Vietnam, my brother, Mr. P and I were adamant about getting ca phe phin (French drip filters) and Vietnamese coffee as souvenirs. We bought a few packs of ground coffee from Trung Nyugen, a popular cafe with outlets dotted across the city.
Upon returning to Bangkok, we were eager to recreate Vietnamese coffee at home. However, we placed the filters incorrectly and some of the coffee grounds got through, resulting in yucky, grainy brews. And we also thought we could compensate for the sweetness of condensed milk with sugar. Totally wrong!
After a few tries, we finally got the method and proportions correct, and Vietnamese coffee has become our staple weekend drink. Our favourite is ca phe sua nong, or hot milk coffee. Vietnamese coffee advocates suggest adding 1/3 inch of condensed milk, but we usually add just enough to balance the bitterness.
The only bad side to drinking Vietnamese coffee at home is the extra care needed to clean up the drip filters, making sure the ground coffee do not wash down the drains.
So if you go to Vietnam, do buy Vietnamese coffee and drip filters as souvenirs!