With a friend working in the Australian Embassy in Hanoi, I travelled to Vietnam in the very early 1990s – well before there was any semblance of a tourism structure. It was difficult to get around the country at all and to visit any sights outside of the major cities. Despite that, it was one of my finest travel experiences with incredible expressions of generosity and friendship.
Saying all that, one of my endearing memories is of the superb Vietnamese coffee, introduced by the French in the 1800s at a favourite Hanoi cafe crowded with an eclectic mix of staff from various embassies, local cyclo drivers and small groups of friends. Slow drip coffee (cà phê sữa nóng) is produced by sitting a contraption that looks like a metallic top-hat over a cup with warmed sweet condensed milk. The drip filter contains coarse coffee grounds which are tightly compacted with a screw lid mechanism. Pouring near boiling water into the drip filter slowly produces a flavoursome strong brew. The tighter the grounds are compacted the slower the drip rate and the stronger the coffee (it takes at least five minutes for a good cup). Stirring the resultant mix of the syrupy condensed milk and rich coffee produces an ideal silky smooth breakfast treat, which I enjoyed on many mornings.
Strangely served with jasmine tea (coffee with a tea chaser?) it was one of many culinary highlights in this stunning south-east Asian country.
Also popular, though I never had enough confidence in the ice to try it, is Vietnamese iced coffee made using the same technique but with ice to make an apparently delicious creamy and refreshing afternoon beverage.
Travel Wonders highlights a characteristic drink experienced on his travels. Previous non-alcoholic Drinks Around the World include Mint Tea from Morocco, Coca Tea from Peru and Austria’s herby Almdudler.
Photo Source: Coffee