Friday, August 10, 2012

Vietnamese Iced Coffee

Many years ago, while I was living in Brooklyn, I had a ritual of treating myself to an iced coffee on my day off laundromat day. Back then, there were no Starbucks in my neighborhood of Fort Greene. In fact, there wasn't an early morning coffee shop option of any sort. The only two places within a five block radius of my apartment that sold a decent cup of coffee, were the Brooklyn Moon Cafe, and what I considered an unlikely spot for a cup of coffee, a Cambodian restaurant.
Brooklyn Moon was a southern soul food/coffee shop/poetry lounge spot, and couldn't have been more different than a Cambodian restaurant. Yet, ironically, they both sold the most deliciously sweet and creamy iced coffee.
After years of drinking the tasty coffee drinks, I was thrilled when I discovered their secret ingredient - sweetened condensed milk. But in addition to the thick, sweet milk, what makes this iced coffee different than most is the use of a particularly strong, and flavorful coffee...which really is essential in balancing out the sweetness.
I tried making my own at home several times, but somehow mine just didn't taste as good as I had remembered from my Brooklyn days. In recent years, if I really needed a sweet jolt of nostalgia, I could visit a Thai restaurant nearby and order a glass, but I would have preferred to make it myself whenever the urge stuck. As a result, once I happened upon this recipe, I immediately set forth gathering up what I needed to make a cup - including a special Vietnamese single-serving coffee filter {a Phin} and some suitable coffee {Café du Monde with Chicory}, and made what would be the first of many glasses of my favorite iced coffee at home.
As simple as this technique is, I felt it worthy of a post dedicated to it. The flavor transports me back to the 90's and reminds me of a place that still exists, but barely as I once knew it. Cambodian Cuisine is long gone, but Brooklyn Moon is still kickin' it - if you're in Fort Greene go visit Michael and tell him I sent you in for an iced coffee...I hope he's still making them like he used to. 

Vietnamese Iced Coffee {Café sua dá}

{printable recipe}
Adapted from a recipe by Diane Cu & Todd Porter via LA Times and a recipe by Cora Lambert via Food & Wine magazine
Yields: 1 serving
This strongly flavored, yet sweet iced coffee is my favorite on a hot afternoon. Don't be intimidated by the obscure supplies on the list. If you live in a area where finding them might be difficult, they are readily and inexpensively available online. It's worth the purchase to have the supplies on hand for the next time you make a cup, because there will be a next time!

1 1/2 tablespoons Café Du Monde with Chicory coffee
2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk

special equipment: {optional} a Vietnamese single-cup coffee brewer (Phin)

Bring a kettle of water to a boil.

Add the ground coffee to the metal base of the filter, tap gently on the counter to settle the coffee, and screw on the metal screen.

Choose a drinking glass with a wide enough rim for the metal coffee filter to sit atop. Add the sweetened condensed milk to the glass, and place the filter on top.

Pour just enough hot water into the filter to moisten the grounds, and allow them to "bloom" for 15 seconds. Fill the filter with hot water.

When the hot water has finished passing through the filter, remove it from the glass, and stir the coffee with the condensed milk to blend. Add ice, stir again to chill the coffee, and drink!

Notes | Substitutions
✻  Adjust the amount of ground coffee to suit your taste, but remember that the strength of the coffee needs to balance the sweetness of the condensed milk. You can adjust the strength in a couple of ways - first, the tighter you screw the metal screen onto the filter, the slower the water will pass through, hence the stronger the coffee will be. Looser, for less strength, tighter for more. You can also play with the quantity of ground coffee you use. I've tried everything from 1 to 2 1/2 tablespoons, and settled on 1 1/2 being the perfect amount for my taste.
✻  Personally, I love Café du Monde with Chicory coffee. I can also find it easily where I live, but you can substitute any strong brew, such as espresso, or French roast coffee. Try using Trung Nguyen Vietnamese coffee for an authentic brew.
✻  You can find both coffees, along with the Vietnamese coffee filter on Amazon. However, a strong pot of brewed coffee, using a traditional coffee maker, or a French press, will work well too. Simply make a pot of coffee the way you normally would, only stronger.
✻  No coffeemaker? Or can't stand the thought of turning the kettle on in August? Want to make a big batch? Then, cold brew! Stir a 1/2 pound ground coffee and 4 1/2 cups water together in a pitcher. Let rest on the counter for 24 hours. Strain through a coffee filter lined colander; use right away, or refrigerate for up to a week.


dulcie said...

Delicious. I wish I was drinking one of these instead of my hot coffee right now!

The Full Plate Blog said...

yum! only you could make anything so simple look so decadently ahhhhmazing!!! i have missed your recipes as of late. will have to see if I just wasn't seeing them on my FB feed, or if you took a hiatus?

katie said...

@Eila - Thanks :) Not really a hiatus, but I haven't been posting as much this summer...but hope to be back full force when school starts! Having my boys homes with me (no camp) makes it near impossible to work.

SkinnyMommy said...

This sounds right up my alley--too bad I didn't drink coffee when I went to Vietnam!

Joanne said...

That sounds amazing! I have a deep dark love of sweetened condensed milk...have to try this!

Kari Lindsay said...

I could eat sweetened condensed milk out of the can, but I don`t `cause that would be gross. What could be better that sweetened condensed milk and strong coffee.

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