Imagine a triple shot of espresso, resting on top of a thick layer of sweetened condensed milk. Give this stir, and the jet-black brew slowly gives way to a rich, chocolaty brown, bittersweet brew. Slowly sip the intense brew and begin to feel your palate and body come alive . . . this is Vietnamese coffee. Trung Nguyến is the most notable brand available in Vietnam (now sold in the U.S.), but many Vietnamese Americans prefer Café du Monde coffee from New Orleans, which has chicory root added to it. Either way, a dark roast and fine grind is essential to achieve the intensity for which Vietnamese coffee is famous.
There’s a special device used for certain types of coffee. It’s a single-serving metal brewer that perches right on the rim of the coffee cup. A screened brewing chamber holds the dark grounds. A twist of a screw in the center of the chamber releases the brewed coffee, allowing it to filter slowly through a screen at the bottom into the cup. If you ask for coffee with milk, café sừa, a thick layer of condensed milk will be spooned into the bottom of the cup before the brewing device is affixed. The slow rain of rich, intense coffee drips directly onto the condensed milk. They meld into a rich mixture. Once the coffee has all dripped through, a few strokes of your spoon stirs the sweet milk in, and a rich brown cup is ready for a slow sipping. Pour this concoction over ice for an iced coffee. Mmmmm, I’ll be right back. I need to go make myself a cup right now.
© 2008 Robert Danhi. All rights reserved.