Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
Jun 4, 2009 02:23 AM

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)

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


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  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: