If you’re already a fan, then you already know – Vietnamese coffee is some of the best in the world. If you aren’t familiar with Vietnamese coffee (cà phê) and you love coffee, this is something you must try.
There are a couple of problems, however. Vietnamese coffee is typically only offered in, well, Vietnamese restaurants. If you don’t happen to be convenient to your favorite pho shop when the jones kicks in, you’re pretty much out of luck. Add to that the average $3 price tag and this gets to be a pricey habit.
So I’ll try to take the mystery out of making cà phê yourself – it’s not hard and you’ll save big bucks in the process. There are two drinks I’m going to focus on: cà phê sữa nóng (warm coffee with milk) and cà phê sữa đá (iced coffee with milk). They’re the same thing, one just has – ice…
The setup requires a few special, but easy to find and inexpensive, items to get started. I picked up everything at the Buford Highway Farmer’s Market. I spent less than $14 and estimate the average cost per cup to be about $0.20!
Trung Nguyen coffee – You can use any coffee with a French press grind, but you’ll be missing out. In addition to Arabica and Robusta beans, Trung Nguyen includes Chari and Catimor as well. The beans are roasted in butter oil and a small amount of cocoa is added.
Cà phê phin – this is the simple drip filter used in Vietnamese restaurants. Again, you could use a French press, or even a drip coffee maker.
Sweetened condensed milk – if you can find Longevity brand, it’s traditional. Otherwise, any sweetened condensed milk will do – be sure there are no fillers, though (read the label). (Note: you don’t need to refrigerate after opening – this is what has encouraged its use in the hot climate of SE Asia).
Now that you have everything you need, the rest is simple.
- Place 1 tablespoon of coffee in the bottom of the phin. Make sure that it’s evenly distributed and place the filter insert on top (some of these screw down, others just sit on top of the coffee).
- Add 1-2 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk to the cup (not the phin!).
- Place the phin on top of a cup and add a little hot water to swell the grinds. Wait about 15 seconds, then fill to the top.
- The water should drip through in about 5 minutes.
- Stir together the coffee and milk.
Drink it straight and you have cà phê sữa nóng. Pour over ice and you’ve got cà phê sữa đá.
You’ve just saved $2.80!