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vietnamese coffee

i love vietnamese coffee when i go to a restaurant, and want to replicate that drink at home. can you help me?

what brand coffee do you use? do you grind it yourself, and if so, how fine? do you have a special brewing technique? is one technique superior to another?

what is the right ratio of sweetened condensed milk to coffee? do you find differences in the quality of various brands of sweetened condensed milk? do you have a favorite?

have you ever made this into an ice cream or a custard, like a flan?

and....look at this recipe i found for a vietnamese coffee cupcake! (from the best cupcake blog) http://chockylit.blogspot.com/2006/05...

finally, is there an etiquette for serving and drinking this coffee? is it served only after meals? is it served as a breakfast beverage?


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  1. A common coffee used for Vietnamese coffee is Cafe du Monde (it has, I think, a bit of chickory in it). In Chinatown (NYC) the individual coffee makers that sit on top of a cup are readily available. Center screw is gradually adjusted until coffee has dripped into cup. Coffee drains into cup laced with sweetened condensed milk and then the contents (coffee and milk) are poured over ice.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Fram143

      my mother's was similar--I haven't been able to pull her away from Cafe du Monde (she rejected Porto Rico's New Orleans Blend)--with the exception that ice was in the tumbler/highball, with a healthy dose of sweetened condensed milk (2-3"; the condensed milk can was a brand from the Asian markets--Borden's & Eagle don't work); the individual coffee maker remained on top of the highball. Once the coffee was finished dripping (it seemed as though it took at least 10 minutes), a sundae spoon was used to stir it up. One certainly learns patience this way, without having to burn the fingers from the glass tumbler during the pouring time.

      From what I've grown up with, it's drunk throughout the day. Then again, pho was served at midnight when my mother was growing up, so one may want to adjust when the caffein is consumed.

    2. oh yes, use it in a flan would be yummy. i like Trung Nguyen brand. if you don't have a dripper then a percolator on the cooker also works. the Viet enjoy their coffee throughout the day and they really really take the time to contemplate the universe while drinking. however i'm not sure how their coffee culture works outside Vietnam. [me i can take 2 hours drinking 3 triple espresso no problem :P ]

      1. Standard coffee used in the US is Cafe du Monde with chicory (the yellow can). It should come pre-ground, but if not, it's an espresso ground, if I remember correctly. There is no special brewing technique, no more than the French press requires a special brewing technique.

        Use the little coffee makers sold in the stores. Place it over a cup with sweetened condensed milk (just 1 or 2 cm will do). Add a tablespoon or two of cofee. Add hot water. Put lid on. Wait. Add ice afterward if you're after iced coffee.

        Re brands. I like using the Ong Tho brand (the one with the jolly old dude holding a cane) when I can because that's what I grew up on, but I haven't noticed a huge difference between it or, say, Carnation.

        I have never made a ice cream or flan of it, but I have poured the coffee over good vanilla ice cream (a la affogato di gelato) for a reasonable facsimile and delicious dessert.

        As for etiquette, there is none. This is served after a meal, with a meal, before a meal, or for breakfast. Whatever you desire; no one will look at you oddly. Normally, it's a breakfast accompaniment, and a very standard one. There is an often refered to image of old men, sitting in a little coffee shop, whittling away the hours from morning 'til afternoon.

        5 Replies
        1. re: Ali

          Cafe du Monde is more of a perc grind, not the fine espresso. As far as I know the Vietnamese brands of coffee do not include chickory, so I suspect it is the grind that makes Cafe du Monde the non-import choice. If the grind is too fine, grains either pass through the holes in the filter, or clog them.

          Brands like Trung Nguyen are listed as being a mix of arabica and robusta. Robusta is usually regarded as being inferior, how I think it works in the Vietnamese style. It gives the coffee enough assertiveness to shine through the dampening effect of the sweetened condensed milk. The chickory in Cafe du Monde may also play this role.

          1. re: paulj

            Always asking a Vietnamese friend about the cafe su da at Bahn Mi Che Cali a chain of restaurants in Southern California. Her sister works there and when I ask she brings me a can of Cafe du Monde. She claims that's what they use there. I suspect the chain places make the coffee in large batches and not by the individual method people use at home. Some of the Vietnamese grocery stores here carry a one pound unlabeled brown paper bag of coffee which is French roast, I don't think there's chickory in it.

            1. re: monku

              If it's take out only, it's probably a large batch method, but I wouldn't bet on it. If it's a sit-down place, it's the individual method. Every single Vietnamese restaurant I've ever been to will bring you the filter sitting atop a glass of sweetened condensed milk. It's just how it's served, and it's a simple enough import from Vietnam that people are unwilling to change.

              As for the kinds of coffee most Vietnamese people drink when they're not doing the Cafe du Monde drip filter thing, you'd be surprised at the amount of people using the instant type - not all but a surprising amount for a group of people who have come to be known for this particularly drink. It's probably due to the fact that it's still a tea culture, and coffee is pretty much a leftover from the French (speaking of which, cafe au lait with sweetend condensed milk is the best). (But then, once could argue tea and the China influence, but I won't go there.)

              1. re: Ali

                Vietnamese instant packets - with creamer and sugar - are as easy to find as Vietnamese imported coffee. I don't usually use instant, but these packets aren't a bad choice when camping. The best instant of this type that I've had was from Malaysia, and included some cocoa.

                1. re: Ali

                  These Vietnamese take out places in the Vietnamese communities in Los Angeles do a huge cafe su da business. They must sell 100/hour at $3 each.

                  Out of curiosity why don't they sell it at Starbucks, I think they taste much better than American iced coffee.

          2. If coffee in Vietnam is any indication of what you get in the US, use a Robusta and one of those multiple piece fit over a cup cheap tin gizmos.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

              The first V filter that I got came free with a package of V. coffee. Later I bought a nicer stainless steel filter for about $4 from a large Asian grocery.

              1. re: paulj

                Funny, I got a big batch of them in two sizes for free at a little place in Saigon about 25 years ago, before Vietnam opened up again. They were so cheap (and cheaply made). A couple of years ago I found your stainless steel one in an Asian store in DC. Unfortunately my next stop was some work with Green Mountain Coffee Roasters; and I gave the thing to one of the peope I worked with there.

            2. As everyone's said, Cafe Du Monde is the go-to for Vietnamese coffee in the States. I've also seen French Market, Cafe Orleans and Cafe Bustelo used as a backup brand. Here's a tutorial on using a Vietnamese drip coffee maker:

              1. Hey, sista!

                What I wonder is HOW did Cafe du Monde become the go-to coffee of Vietnamese restaurants across the US? It is here in CT, too, and I have some in the cupboard along with the stainless steel contraptions. I bought mine years ago in a local Asian market (A Dong--don't laugh, I promise you that's the name of the market!). ;)

                HillJ knows I'm a sweetened condensed milk freak and posted a recipe for me for Vietnamese coffee popsicles. Here 'tis:

                9 Replies
                1. re: kattyeyes

                  Probably Vietnamese settling in Louisiana.

                  1. re: monku

                    Yep, probably. Same reason I can find Zatarain's, gumbo file, and crab boil supplies at Viet markets. Compatible fishing cultures, and migrants contributing great stuff to America.

                    1. re: trentyzan

                      oooh, you just gave me an idea for finding reasonably priced zatarain's creole mustard! thanks!

                      1. re: trentyzan

                        sista kattyeyes! i have some popsicle molds that i bought at cvs last summer with the intent to use them soon. but, hillj's vietnamese coffee popsicles will be their inauguration, though!

                        1. re: alkapal

                          Perfect--I knew you would love this idea. And I hope you find your special creole mustard, too! :)

                      2. re: monku

                        Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I've been told coffee with chicory is the standard in Vietnam. Cafe du Monde is the only coffee and chicory blend that's fairly easy to find outside Louisiana, so no surprise it would be the go-to brand.

                        1. re: Zeldog

                          I would say...chicory doesn't exist in VN. At least, I don't think I've ever seen it.

                          1. re: jaykayen

                            indian restaurants use coffee with chicory, too.

                            1. re: alkapal

                              I was unaware that any Indian restaurants served coffee.

                    2. Be careful: there are (or at least used to be) two versions of Cafe du Monde coffee, on with and one without chicory, so if it doesn't say "Coffee and Chicory" on the label, it's just coffee. I grew up drinking the stuff, both at home and at the cafe, and noticed the chicory taste first time I had some in a Vietnamese place.

                      Frankly, Cafe du Monde is not very good coffee. You can use it to replicate what they serve in restaurants or you can make something better by adding chicory to any decent arabica coffee. You can buy chicory online and at some health food or specialty stores. I use about 25% chicory. As someone else noted, use a medium grind with those metal drip gadgets you put on top of the cup. However, my preference is to grind fine and use a stove top espresso maker.

                      1. You can drink it at breakfast, lunch, and throughout the day. But IMO less likely after dinner.

                        Best brand of sweetened condensed milk is Longevity Brand, Sua Ong Tho.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: jaykayen

                          Beware that some brands of condensed milk are 'filled' - skim milk with vegetable fats. I always double check the ingredients list, preferring ones that list only milk and sugar.

                          1. re: paulj

                            While I haven't checked the ingredients list of Sua Ong Tho, it's supposed to be from full cream milk, implying that no fillers are necessary.

                            1. re: jaykayen

                              I looked at the ingredients of various brands of condensed milk at a large Asian grocery (99Ranch). Nearly all had the same calories (130) and total fat (3g) per serving. This included both ones that listed just 'milk and sugar' (Carnation, Nestle etc) and the 'filled' ones (skim milk, sugar, hydrogenated fat).

                              The one exception was Longevity Gold, which was on sale (so I bought 2). That has 132 calories, 3.5g. The 'gold' can is a product of Holland. Ingredients are 'concentrated whole milk and sugar'.

                              1. re: paulj

                                paul, what was the price? here, i think on sale carnation was $2.50, iirc.

                                1. re: alkapal

                                  The gold was on sale for $2. I don't recall what non-sale was, closer to $3 I think. $2.50 seems typical for most brands.

                        2. Cafe du Monde became a coffee of choice due to the embargo against Vietnam after the war. Since true Vietnamese coffee was not available here, the Vietnamese population of Louisiana adopted Cafe du Monde. But it has chicory in it, which is never used in Vietnam.

                          Trung Nguyen is by far the leading brand in Vietnam, with the most coffee shops, around 800. Highlands Coffee is challenging them with well-placed cafes. Vietnamese coffees are traditionally multi-species (Arabica, Robusta, Excelsa) and are roasted slowly so that the sugars and oils do not burn, resulting in a deep flavor but not burnt taste. There are so many local brands and roasters that when you are in Vietnam you can find great coffee in everywhere, like oranges in Indian River Valley.

                          The most popular brands for the milk are Vinamilk (no longer exported to the USA due to excessive regulation by the FDA) and Longevity. These brands are used because they impart more creaming for the sweetness (they are whole milk). USA brands are too sweet and thin, typically. A good source for multiple brands of imported Vietnamese coffee is www.vietnamese-coffee.com.

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: mr.bean

                            I wonder about that 'whole milk' business. US Carnation sweetened condensed milk is just milk and sugar. Some of the Asian brands are 'filled sweetened condensed', with ingredients like skim milk, milk powder, sugar, vegetable fats and creamers. I think I've seen Longevity in both versions.

                            1. re: mr.bean

                              like oranges in indian river "valley"? are you talking about indian river, florida? it's not a "valley."

                              1. re: mr.bean


                                is the only online source worth the time & money for Vietnamese coffee.
                                ditto, Mr. Bean!

                                1. re: HillJ

                                  holy moly, which one do you choose, there is such a selection!

                                  1. re: alkapal

                                    alkapal, I always buy the sampler box because I enjoy ALL of their offerings. The company always sends free samples with every order too. For a few dollars you can give their line up a try.

                                    1. re: HillJ

                                      ok, great tip, and thanks for the link. now is the time of year to stock up on sweetened condensed milk, too!

                              2. One grocery that I shopped at today had samples of instant Vietnamese coffee, Vinacafe brand. It was severed in large plastic cups with ice. This was a local chain with up-scale market aspirations.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: paulj

                                  i think i had some of that in a viet place in cape coral florida, except it had a plastic cover on it. i wondered how they "did it." nope, after looking at the vinacafe pics on google images, that was not it. mine was in a clear plastic cup, without any logo.

                                  it was viet coffee and condensed milk with ice and a plastic cover *sealing* it. the cover was what puzzled me.