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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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click on the above photos to view the iPhone 4s plans by Celcom.