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I traveled to Vietnam on numerous occasions in one of my previous jobs, and one of my favorite things about Vietnam outside of those excellent beef noodles, was their coffee.

The coffee drinking culture in Vietnam is very much different from that of Malaysia. Instead of international chains like Starbucks and Coffeebeans, you can find many classy and some quaintly decorated independent coffee houses scattered everywhere in Ho Chi Minh City.

In fact, around Turtle Lake in HCMC, you can even find coffee houses that are easily mistaken as pubs or dance clubs. Coffee drinking is not just for the old folks, it is also a favorite past time for fashionable young adults.

Vietnamese Iced Coffee, known as “cafe da”, is usually plenty thick and fragrant. The coffee consists of about 1/4 condensed milk and best served with ice. I believe most coffee lover would find it enjoyable (albeit not the healthiest choice)

I would sometimes order drip coffee when I have my pho fix at Pho Hoa, but lately I’ve been doing it myself, and here is how you can too!

proper condensed milk is a must, not condensed creamer
proper condensed milk is a must, not condensed creamer

The key to good food is in its ingredients, and there’s no difference when it comes to coffee. For cafe da, other than the ground coffee itself, you need proper condensed milk.

I purchased Milkmaid condensed milk from Cold Storage at a price of RM 9.99. You can get condensed creamer for RM 2.40 or so but that’ll be like drinking coffee with palm oil and sugar, it’s not the same. (if you’re interested in why condensed milk are imported, read this article on TheNutGraph by Tony Pua).

My ground coffee and the drip filter was given by a Vietnamese friend (Cheryl Mọi Rợ), but you can actually source them locally. The ground coffee that I got has a bit of a chocolaty aroma to it, and is rather rich and complex too. Trung Nguyen is a well known brand and they have a website at trungnguyen.com.my

use a French drip filter
use a French drip filter

So here’s how you make a cup of cafe da:

  • put 1-2 tablespoon of condensed milk in a cup
  • put a tablespoon of ground coffee in the filter
  • compact the powder with supplied filter, but only lightly
  • place everything on top of the cup with condensed milk
  • add 20 ml of hot water to wet the coffee (just covering the top filter)
  • add boiling water till almost the top of the filter cup
  • cover the filter, and wait till all hot water is dripped into the cup
  • remove filter (you can now turn over the cover as a holder of the filter instead)
  • stir, pour in ice, and enjoy!

1/4 condensed milk, 3/4 coffee, 100% ice = win
1/4 condensed milk, 3/4 coffee, 100% ice = win

While this is the most typical way to enjoy Vietnamese coffee, some prefer it with sugar or “kosong” too. Of course, ice is also optional.

Now excuse me while I make me another cup of cafe da. :D

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Discuss : How to Make Vietnamese Coffee at Home (cafe da)

  1. And the cool thing about making coffee at home is that we can add a shot of vodka into it, rite :D

  2. Yes, the Malaysian government’s policies have certainly led to systematic deception of the consumer — many are not aware that they are drinking palm oil when they order their teh si peng of kopi kau! I have been pointing this out to friends and many were shocked. A tin of condensed milk is sold for about S$1.80 down south and we have to depend on the goodwill of friends for intermittent supplies! Sad that several generations of Malaysians have to sacrifice their health by unknowingly supporting our palm oil industry.

  3. i learned something new today.. i must try ..

  4. you have all the equipment in store.. can easily make coffee on your own la..

  5. wow so expensive your condensed milk. we stock up whenever we’re in Spore :p

  6. some baily’s irish might do some magic. :)

  7. Trung Nguyen. Coffee Ritual used to sell it, but they’ve moved to D’sara Uptown; not sure when they’re opening. Oh g*d, it’s damn oily. Thick, nice and a little chocolatey, though.

    …So THAT’S what happened to our sweetened condensed milk. I realised it was disappearing about two to three years ago. Tch. Palm oil is everywhere these days… but I never noticed the real stuff on the shelves before. How long has Cold Storage been selling it?

    • Giant Sotong: I think those premium supermarkets have been carrying these imported condensed milk for a while now.

  8. no wonder i couldn’t find any condensed milk! wanted to get some to make dulce de leche (read: awesome caramel) i was like wtf why is our condensed milk is not from cow one!

  9. foodcrazee

    cafe da = iced coffee

    cafe sua da = iced milk coffee. . .

  10. that’s too much work. I’ll just drink my 3-in-1 at home.

  11. Hello,
    I am coming from Hochiminh City of Vietnam.
    Nice to enter your blog world. Highly appreciate your comments about our Vietnamese coffee :-)
    just one modification to your blog entry: what that you made is called “cafe sua da”. Just because “sua” means “milk”, “da” means “ice”
    If you make it with ice and sugar instead of condensed milk, it is called “cafe da”
    Excuse me if this comment offends you.
    Thanks,

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