It isn’t hard to argue that Vietnamese Iced Coffee has become one of Houston’s favorite ways to cool off during the summer. This sweet rich coffee drink can be found at dozens of Vietnamese restaurants and cafes, as well as coffee shops like Blacksmith and Paper Co. Within the past year bottled versions, like local Caphin, have appeared on the scene too and quickly grown in popularity. Recently Caphin debuted in Central Market and sold out within a day.
Cà phê sua dá, as it is traditionally called, has it’s origins in Vietnam around 1857 when the French introduced coffee to the country. (Vietnam is now the second largest coffee producer in the world.) At that time fresh milk was hard to store in the country’s tropical climate and so condensed milk was more readily available. Because of this and perhaps also due to the strong taste of the coffee produced there Cà phê sua dá was born.
Making Vietnamese Iced Coffee doesn’t require anything fancy or very much work at all. The only device you need is a phin, which is an inexpensive metal coffee filter that sits on top of your cup. Fill it with two tablespoons of coffee (many use Cafe du Monde Coffee with Chicory) and slightly screw on the metal filter. Place it on top of a cup that has a couple tablespoons of condensed milk and pour in a little bit of boiling water in the filter to let the coffee bloom. After 30 seconds fill the phin to the top and wait for all of the coffee to drip out. It will take about four to five minutes.
When it is finished remove the filter, stir and pour over ice and enjoy. It took me a few tries to get it right because, since I grind my own coffee, I was using too fine of a grind. Once I used a very coarse grind it all came together nicely. Of course you can adjust the recipe to your own liking to make it more bold or more sweet and even serve it hot.
Alternatively, if you’d rather have someone else do it for you go by a restaurant like Pho Saigon. I tried it there and a number of other places this weekend; theirs was one of the best I found. The server even took the time to walk me step-by-step on how to do it. If you want to take it one step further then head over to Good Dog in the Heights. If you like Vietnamese Iced Coffee then you will have accomplished everything in life when you taste their Cajeta and Caphin milkshake. It’s that good.