Another Vietnamese coffee recipe. This one is Vietnamese Iced Coffee. Yes, it is sweet, indeed. The Vietnamese name is ca phe sua da. Basically it’s iced coffee with sweetened condensed milk. There certainly are a lot of coffee recipes in Vietnam!
There is something you must know…
There are usually three or more coffee shops on every block in Hanoi. Table and chairs range from child-sized plastic stools to bamboo to hightop fancy tables. Coffee does not age discriminate in Vietnam. Students go to trendy, bustling shops. Office workers to lounge style places, and the older generation prefers the long-lived local establishments.
No matter the style of shop, or time of day, you can find Hanoians sipping this steadfast drink: ca phe sua da. This lovely libation is served in a short, clear glass with an oversized ice cube, Vietnamese espresso floats on top of a layer of sweetened condensed milk. Heaven in a glass!
You’ll get a spoon to stir the sweet condensed milk into the strong coffee. The combination of the coffee and the sweetened condensed milk creates a perfect flavor balance. For a Vietnamese coffee newbie, it’s best to sip slowly and let the ice melt a bit. The taste won’t be overwhelmingly sweet, but rather have light caramel notes.
Depending on the shop, your coffee will be presented differently. At a traditional shop, your coffee will arrive with the phin, the Vietnamese version of a French press. This is a metal filter, the size of an espresso cup. The bottom has perforations and inside is a filter/press. Coffee is placed at the bottom of the metal cup. Drop in the press, and pour your hot water. Gravity takes care of the rest.. The entire process takes about 10 minutes. If the place you are at serves it in a clear glass, you can see your coffee brewing as the sides of the cup bead with steam. There is certainly more pause in this method of enjoying coffee.
You can find people of all ages sipping their sua da and nibbling on sunflower seeds, without a care in the world. A short stroll down any given street and you’ll see piles of sunflower shells scattered about under tables, the aftermath of an afternoon well spent.
I am sure by now you’ve gathered that coffee is an integral part of Hanoi’s way of life. The Vietnamese enjoy coffee; by this I mean, they really enjoy it. They sit down with friends, sip, and nibble on sunflower seeds, share their time. Having a cup of coffee with friends is a very social affair. It’s an aspect of their culture that I find truly charming. Now I understand the piles of sunflower seed shell and the carefree looks on the faces of coffee shop patrons.
Hanoi’s coffee culture, however, has not always had a nice aspect to it. It all began with the French colonists in Indochina. They started the first coffee plantations in the late 19th century, and forced local peasants into labor. Hanoi’s initial coffee shops were frequented only by the wealthy foreign residents. Slowly though, the drink became popular among all of the city’s residents.
Vietnamese coffee is indeed strong. My daughter has often joked that the coffee is strong enough to power her moped. After my first taste I believed her. I remember my first cup at breakfast at the hotel. Wow! One sip and I was wide awake. As a person who usually drinks 2 cups in the morning, I couldn’t imagine drinking more that one of cup of Vietnamese iced coffee.
This recipe will yield two servings. To brew your espresso, if you have an espresso maker, feel free to use it. You can also use a French press, or even the regular drip coffee maker. Now if you have a Vietnamese phin , by all means.
If you want to try more Vietnamese dishes here are some to checkout or bookmark for later.
Bun cha: Vietnamese pork meatballs are served with a delicious golden broth, a variety of fresh herbs, greens, and rice noodles.
Vietnamese coconut braised pork (Thit Kho Tau) is slow cooked, tender, salty and sweet is one you have to try!
You have to finish off your meal with a traditional Vietnamese Egg Coffee or ca phe trung (cà phê trứng) a Hanoi espresso with a sweet meringue like topping. There is also Vietnamese coconut coffee as another sweet coffee drink to enjoy after a meal.
Vietnamese Iced Coffee
Vietnamese Iced Coffee or ca phe su da is what Hanoians go to when the mercury goes up. It's sweet, cold, and delicious. So easy to make at home. Sweetened condensed milk, espresso, and ice, that's it!
- 2 Tbsp sweetened condensed milk
- 8 oz espresso brewed
- 8 ice cubes
Place 1 Tbsp of sweetened condensed milk in each glass.
- Add 2-4 ice cubes to each glass.
Pour in 4 oz of espresso.
Stir well to combine thoroughly.