Ca phe- beyond coffee powder and milk
There are a number of tiny things that you notice when visiting a country, that sets it apart from rest of the world. In Vietnam apart from the chaotic traffic, clumsily tangled telecom cables, crazy night markets and karaoke bars there is one thing that you cannot help but notice- ca phe (Coffee). Coffee has been an essential part of Vietnamese culture since the 19th century French colonization so much so that it is in fact the largest coffee producer in the world.
Vietnamese coffee is very strong and bitter, you can just not have black coffee and if you plan to ask for one be sure to get a quizzical look on the brewer’s face. The strong flavor of the coffee explains why it is served with sweet condensed milk instead of regular milk, so if you have ordered a ca phe sua da (cold coffee) you will get little less than a quarter of condensed milk a lot of strong black coffee mixed together with ice cubes. I was reluctant to take a sip of what appeared to me as a strange concoction, but to my surprise the taste grew on me right after the first glass.
If you thought the curious case of Vietnamese coffee ends at sweetened condensed milk then let me tell you, that is just the beginning. Another interesting thing about how coffee is served in Vietnam is phin filter, it rests on the top of the cup and you can see the brewed coffee is dripping little by little in the cup which has a layer of condensed milk. Once all of the brewed coffee is in the cup you can remove the filter and relish ca phe sua nong (hot coffee) all you have to do is put ice in it to turn it into cold coffee- simple as that!
Before going to Vietnam there was this one thing I had to try- the weasel coffee, this is produced by the defecated coffee beans by Civet (a weasel like animal) the streets of Vietnam are filled with vendors selling weasel coffee beans most of them are fake, make sure you know what you are buying. During my travel through the country I did taste a lot of unusual things one of them being the extremely famous Ca phe trung (Egg Coffee) almost every other cafe in Hanoi has this on the Menu, but if you really want to taste the finest version of Ca phe trung I would recommend Giang Cafe in the old quarters of Hanoi. Egg Coffee as the name suggests is a blend of- Egg yolk, condensed milk, coffee powder and cheese – all these ingredients are mixed to form a creamy goodness that tastes very much like tiramisu.
May it be the high-rise air-conditioned buildings of big brands like- Starbucks, Highlands, Trung Nguyên- a coffee shop overlooking the Hoan Kiem Lake, a new-found local business in Phong Nha or one of the numerous street side cafes with the tiny stools one thing that binds them together is the distinct flavor of Vietnamese coffee accompanied by some peculiar ingredient tastefully distinguishing the coffee culture of Vietnam from the rest of the world.