I drank SO much coffee in high school when it was artsy-chic to hang at coffeehouses and watch bands all night long while popping chocolate-covered espresso beans. Even Mom encouraged my coffee habit, convinced that all the caffeine could only improve my grades :) Frequently she took me to noodle houses and ordered cà phê sữa đá (Vietnamese ice coffee) with our noodles. Did she intend to nurture a noodle and coffee palate? I think I'm still WIRED from high school and I ALWAYS crave noodles.
Ice Vietnamese coffee, cà phê sữa đá, translated "coffee milk ice," is simply a spoon-stir of strong coffee and condensed milk with ice. The mystery ingredient (not so mysterious after all) is condensed milk! Something THIS decadent was introduced to Viet Nam by the French (who else?!) in the mid 1800's along with croissants, baguettes, pâté, fois and all those rich buttery pastries. I have many childhood memories of running around spreading pâté on baguettes (totally random, huh?).
Once upon a time you could only find cà phê sữa đá in Vietnamese restaurants but now you can get it in hip boutique cafes everywhere! In addition to the rich creamy flavor, I totally dig the signature metal drip filter set up. Presentation ROCKS. Be sure to use glass cups so we all can witness the hypnotic drips, okay?Definitely meant for the chill, not for the hurried. Vietnamese coffee takes about 6-10 minutes to brew using a single-serving slow-drip metal filter (no additional paper filters). You need multiple filter sets if you want to make a few coffees at a time. This transforms the mundane act of drinking coffee into SUCH a dignified ritual.
You can buy these metal filters at any Asian market or specialty store (i.e., World Market, Sur La Table) for $3-$6 each. The one in the pic above was $3.99 at Kim Long Market in Salt Lake City. A few styles exist, but all are basically the same so don't waste money paying more.
The grounds, the beans... Trung Nguyen, the red can below, is the famous Starbucks-equivalent of Viet Nam, $7 at Tay-Do in SLC. Cafe Du Monde brand is also very delicious with a chicory additive, $5 at Tay-Do in SLC. Some stores pride themselves on their unique blends using beans roasted in clarified butter. Yes, CLARIFIED BUTTER.
Condensed milk (same as "sweetened condensed milk" since there are no "unsweetened" condensed milk) can be found in the baking section of any supermarket. Longevity Brand is most rich (ah!!) and seem to only be sold in Asian markets. Use a bottle opener to pierce opposite sides of the top and pour about 1/2 inch of condensed milk in a clear glass. Then use aluminum foil to cover and store in the fridge.
Here's the awesome old school filter, 3 pieces: the body of the filter, the metal weight that keeps down the grinds and a lid to keep the water warm. It's pretty self-explanatory from this point on, but I took the liberty of shooting the series of steps, so check it out...
Scoop some coarse grounds to just cover the metal screw in the center (about 2 spoonfuls). Put the weight in and push down.
Next pour hot boiling water enough to just soak the grounds, wait a second, then continue pouring water until it reaches the rim. (I'm proud of the mid-pour shot:)Wait patiently. It doesn't get ANY more straightforward than this. Unlike, espresso where water is forced through the grounds, this filter uses mother-nature's gravity (way simple, see?). Remember, this is a leisurely drink. Yes, the coffee drips slow...slowly. Put the metal top on and chill as you inhale the heavenly buttery brew...aah! Oh, and putting on some swanky music totally adds to the experience.
Black strong coffee, thick fat drops...check out the holes in the pic above (rad, I LOVE this image)...condensation build up, like a steamy shower...hot! If you stare hard enough, the dripping will induce a trippy trance ;) Reminder, see-through cups for presentation, okay?
When all the water has dripped through the filter....take off the lid and use it as a dish for your filter..
Take a small spoon and begin stirring the coffee into the condensed milk. Watch the rules of color mixing come to life...black to creamy caramel.
Pour this gorgeous color immediately into a tall glass of ice. I always leave my glass of ice out during the entire dripping process to allow the ice to melt...so it becomes sort of an Americana.
The result is a creamy, rich, thick, strong perfectly ice cold cup of coffee. The condensed milk intensifies the coffee. I love my friend RussR's reaction when he took his first sip: "Whoa! This is like, 80 proof coffee, maaaan." The addiction begins...ENJOY! YUMM! ;)