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Enjoying Vietnamese Coffee

Guest Author - Teresa Coates

I first discovered the deep and robust flavors of ca phe sua da (coffee with milk) while living in central Vietnam. Tam Ky is far off the tourist track and one of the few places to go in the evenings was the nearby coffee house where, with a bit of gesturing and limited English, I learned to enjoy the syrupy goodness of what could be deemed Vietnam's national drink.

Everywhere you travel in the country, you can find a cafe selling it hot, ca phe sua nong, or over ice, ca phe sua da. Small, but powerful, ca phe sua is meant to be sipped slowly, interspersing your conversation between friends with sips of your coffee. When you find the perfect cup, take your time with it. There's no hurry, really.

Stateside, you can find ca phe sua at many Vietnamese restaurants where it will be listed as such, or possibly as Vietnamese coffee. I've also seen it listed as coffee with milk, but that makes it sound far too much like coffee I could find in any cafe.

You can also make it at home quickly and easily, but you'll need to have a filter first. They are available online through several companies (see below). Made of thin metal with a screw-down filter or one that simply sits inside, it brews just one serving of coffee at a time and is the preferred method.

You will also need sweetened condensed milk and coffee grounds, preferably Trung Nguyen brand (try the Gourmet Blend) or Indochine. In Vietnam, there are hundreds of Trung Nguyen coffee shops where you can buy a hot cup of ca phe sua or the grounds. Stateside, both brands can be found in many Asian grocery stores.

To make the perfect cup:
* Pour in about two tablespoons of condensed milk into the bottom of a warm cup (this helps keep the coffee hot longer).
* Put one tablespoon of grounds into the filter chamber, shake gently to disperse them evenly. Drizzle a tablespoon (or so) of hot water over the grounds to get them started.
* Put the filter insert into the chamber and screw down or press tightly (there are two versions of filter).
* Pour enough water in to fill the filter chamber. It should take a second or two to start dripping. If it just runs through, then your filter is not tight enough. It should take 4-5 minutes for the water to run all the way through.
* When it is finished dripping (or close to it), take the filter off and place it in the upside-down lid to keep your table clean. Stir the condensed milk and coffee together until it is fully combined.

If you want to make ca phe sua da (iced coffee), prepare a tall glass with crushed ice and a spoon. Pour the coffee over the ice and stir. Sip it with a straw, enjoying the intense flavor slowly.

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Content copyright © 2013 by Teresa Coates. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Teresa Coates. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Hanny Suriadi for details.

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