While the French may have been the ones to bring coffee to Vietnam in the 19th century, the Vietnamese soon developed their own passionate coffee culture. While living in Vietnam, chef Cameron Stauch discovered the sweetest way to get a caffeine kick.
Vietnamese coffee (cà phê) recipe
I love watching rich robust Vietnamese coffee drip slowly into a glass. Grown in the central highlands and made from strong dark robusta beans, Vietnamese coffee is satisfying on its own, with its hints of smoky chocolate and caramel.
It’s also stellar when stirred with a touch of sweetened condensed milk or poured over ice in summer.
Vietnamese coffee is traditionally brewed one cup at a time using a small filter (phin) perched atop a cup or mug. Search for a phin and Trung Nguyen brand coffee (my favourite!) in Vietnamese grocers. If you don’t have a phin or want to make coffee for several people at once, opt instead for a regular drip coffeemaker or an espresso machine.
Plan for ¾ cup of coffee per person.
- 2 rounded tablespoons finely ground Vietnamese coffee or strong French roast.
- About 3/4/ cup (190ml) just-boiled water
To make black coffee (cà phê đá)
Place the coffee in the inner chamber of the filter and gently tap it to settle and evenly distribute the coffee.
Fit the insert into the chamber, twisting it once or twice around to flatten and spread out the coffee.
Screw it about three-quarters tight, leaving room for the coffee to swell. Set the filter on top of a glass or mug.
Pour about ¼ cup of just-boiled water into the filter and wait about 30 seconds to a minute for the coffee grounds to moisten.
Pour the remaining hot water into the filter (it should almost reach the top). Cover with the lid and let the coffee drip into the glass or mug over 3 or 4 minutes. If the coffee stops to drip before the chamber is empty, gently loosen the insert.
If you’re using a mug, lift the lid to check on the progress (I like using a glass cup to watch the progress of the slow dark drip.)
Drink it black or slightly sweetened with sugar.
With sweetened condensed milk – Ca Phe Sua
Pour 1 tablespoon sweetened condensed milk into the glass or mug before brewing the coffee. Stir, taste, and adjust with more milk if desired.
With sweetened condensed milk on ice – Ca Phe Sua Da
Mix sweetened condensed milk with coffee (above) and pour into a glass filled with three or four ice cubes)
This recipe was taken from Cameron Stauch’s Vegetarian Viet Nam cookbook, published by W.W. Norton.