A simple recipe for Vietnamese Iced Coffee, (Cà Phê Sữa Da) which features a rich, strong chicory coffee slowly dripped through a phin filter into sweetened condensed milk.
There's nothing more simple than a cup of a good coffee.
That is, until you've had Vietnamese-style coffee.
If you've been to a Vietnamese phở restaurant, you'll probably have seen someone order Cà Phê Sữa Da (Vietnamese coffee).
It is served with the coffee slowly dripping through a stainless steel filter (phin), condensed milk on the bottom, along with and tall glass of ice.
History of coffee in Vietnam
Coffee was first introduced to Vietnam in 1857 by a French Catholic priest.
Land was cultivated into coffee plantations. However, it wasn't until after 1986 that Vietnam became one of the largest producers of coffee.
Most of the coffee Vietnam produces comes from the Robusta variety of coffee bean, rather than the more commonly known Arabica.
Robusta is considered not as high quality as Arabica coffee beans because it is much more bitter and used as a filler for instant coffee. However, Robusta is a hardier variety and is less susceptible to disease, and yields larger crops.
To make Vietnamese-style coffee, you'll need a coffee phin, which is a small stainless steel drip filter.
How the Vietnamese coffee phin filter works
What makes the Vietnamese coffee phin filter different than a pour-over (eg. Chemex) is that the phin consists of 2 parts:
- a bottom metal cylindrical "cup" with perforations and
- a top disc with perforations that screws into the bottom "cup."
The coarse-ground coffee is placed into the bottom "cup" and is pressed when the top disc is screwed in with a utensil such as a spoon.
The trick is finding the right balance between tightening the disc too tightly (no coffee can drip through), versus having the disc too loose (weak coffee, light brown water).
How to prepare the coffee
What makes Vietnamese coffee unique is in the method in which it is prepared.
Add the medium-coarse dark roast ground coffee to the coffee phin.
Pour hot water over the phin filter and watch the coffee slowly drip through the filter into the cup.
You can either have a glass with sweetened condensed milk on the side, so you can pour the drip coffee into it, or you can have the coffee drip directly into the the glass with condensed milk.
The resulting coffee is strong and is poured over ice before serving.
Because the coffee is strong, a little bit goes a long way.
- Cà Phê đá: Just dark roast Vietnamese coffee and ice.
- Cà Phê Sữa đá: a popular way of preparing Vietnamese coffee, with the addition of sweetened condensed milk. This is usually the coffee people refer to when speaking about Vietnamese coffee.
- Bạc Xỉu: Essentially the same drink, except the proportion of condensed milk is much more than the coffee. Good for people who enjoy their coffee on the sweeter side.
- Cà Phê Trứng: Vietnamese whipped egg coffee which originated in Hanoi. Egg yolks are whipped with coffee, milk, and sugar and produces a rich, foamy drink that is reminiscent of eggnog.
How to serve
You can serve Vietnamese coffee hot or cold.
Vietnamese coffee is a drink that is enjoyed at a leisurely pace due to the nature of the slow drip.
It's one of my favourite pick-me-ups that I can make at home.
Try this simple Cà Phê Sữa đá -- Vietnamese iced coffee with condensed milk -- it's a great way to cool down on a hot, humid summer's day. Pair it with a Banh Mi sandwich, and you've got the perfect lunch.
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Cà Phê Sữa đá (Vietnamese Iced Coffee)
For accuracy and precision in baking recipes, use weight (metric) measurements when available.
- 2 tablespoon sweetened condensed milk
- 1 heaped tablespoon coarse ground dark roast coffee I used Cafe du Monde
- ½ C hot boiled water
- 1 C ice
- In a heat-resistant glass, add in the condensed milk (you can add more or less to your liking).
- To the coffee phin filter "cup," add 1 heaped tablespoon of coarse ground coffee. Gently tap to ensure the coffee grounds are evenly spread out. Place the top disc on and carefully screw it over the filter "cup" with your fingers. Use a metal spoon and continue to tighten until you feel some resistance.
- Place the coffee phin over top of the glass with the condensed milk.
- Carefully pour a little hot water into the coffee phin and observe how quickly the water drips through. If it's dripping quickly, carefully use a spoon to tighten the filter. (Note: the coffee filter is metal so it will be hot). If no coffee is dripping through, then carefully use the spoon to loosen the filter a bit.
- When the coffee is dripping at an ideal slow rate, add the rest of the hot water (it should take about 4-5 minutes for the coffee to finish dripping through) and place the cover over top.
- In the meantime, add ice cubes to a tall glass.
- Once the coffee has finished dripping, remove the phin. Stir the condensed milk and coffee together, and pour over the ice cubes.
- Add a straw and enjoy immediately.
The nutritional information provided should be considered as approximate and is not guaranteed. Please use your best judgment to ensure food is safely prepared and/or a good fit for your diet.
This article was originally published for Curious Cuisiniere.