Cà phê sữa đá

I have long been a fan of Vietnamese Coffee, or cafe sua da. Whether the final product be enjoyed hot or cold, there is nothing quite like the pairing of slow drip coffee and sweetened condensed milk. I also appreciate the patience required to allow the coffee to brew into the milk. No matter how difficult the wait, the end product never fails to deliver.

Without a clue where I might be able to find the brewing equipment necessary to create this delectable beverage, Ali was nice enough to cater to my cravings by making a downright delicious Vietnamese coffee ice cream. And boy does this stuff capture the flavor of the drink. And so it happened one cold January afternoon that a young lady named Lynn entered our cafe. A student from the University of Portland, Lynn was inquiring to see if we might be interested in donating a prize for the school's annual R.P.S. Competition. Oh I'm sorry, you're not down with R.P.S.? That would be rock-paper-scissors, also known as roshambo. Before Lynn was finished telling me that the tournament is held to raise aid for some of the poorest nations on the planet, I was writing a gift certificate for two ice-cream sundaes or milkshakes to whomever turns out to have the quickest draw.

While I was filling out the gift certificate Lynn's eyes happened to find our ice cream menu, which at the time indicated that Ali had made some of her now famous Vietnamese coffee ice cream. "You have Vietnamese coffee ice cream?!?" Lynn exclaimed. "Uh, yeah." I replied. "And it's pretty damn good." Lynn excitedly explained to me that she loved Vietnamese coffee, and that there seemed to be few if any cafes in North Portland which offered the drink. I then explained to her that I happened to be a huge fan of the beverage, but didn't know where to start looking for the single cup brewers. To my delight Lynn told me that she thought there might be a market near her parent's house which sold the brewers, and that the next time she went home to visit family, she would go to the market to look for them.

A few weeks fly by and it's a sunny and nearly warm February afternoon. It's a Monday, and we're closed. Ali and I happened to be at the cafe, meeting with some new friends who will be mentioned in a forthcoming blog. It can be an uncomfortable thing to be at the cafe on a Monday, watching people unknowingly try to open the locked door. 'Sorry, we're closed' we try to telepathically apologize through the glass and wood door that separates us. I sympathize for the unsettling feeling one gets trying to open the door, only to have all their energy stalled by a deadbolt. The look on their faces cannot help but make me feel as though I have let them down. I want to open the door and try to fix the situation, but I know that I mustn't, Mondays keep us sane.

But this past Monday, Lynn came to our door with a plastic bag at her side, and with a breath I was up out of my seat, my hand unlocking and opening the door. Turns out Lynn got to go home over the weekend and came back with not one...not two...not three...not four...but FIVE shiny new press for the LRBC. And it just so happened that there was some Vietnamese coffee ice cream leftover from the sunny weekend with which we could send with Lynn off.

Until we figure out just the right grind and volume of coffee, water, and sweetened condensed milk ratios, feel free to consider them part of our 'secret menu.'


Anonymous said...

Hey! This is Lynn...I just read your blog! hahaha I'm so excited to get my hook up of Vietnamese coffee. You don't even know. I miss my family so much at home and the coffee reminds me of them and all the Asianness that goes on at my house haha...you guys are gonna help cure my homesickness, it's great. And if you want, I can call my dad to get the right ratios for you, because he makes it all the time. Just let me know if you want 'em, or if you wanna put yourself up to the challenge, that's cool too. I'm just glad I was able to get them for you guys! This is what I'm talkin' about, a sense of community, helpin' out your neighbors, gettin' them important things like Vietnamese coffee. I love it.

And Ali...KEEP THE ICE CREAM COMING, please! :)

Email me if you need any other bizarre Asian cooking tools. I got your back. :) le11@up.edu

Thomas Le Ngo said...

My parents used to make cafe sua da all the time! I once tried to order the ice cream, but you were all out! I need to try it out sometime...

vj said...

Okay, this is according to Into the Vietnamese Kitchen by Andrea Nguyen. She says to brew a very very very strong cup of black coffee - she says that the presses don't always work well.

And then she says to put 1 tablespoon of sweetened condensed milk into the cup, add about half the coffee, stir and taste, then adjust.

Tim D. Roth said...

If you want to get the coffee side right, I think you're going to have to ask Joel to throw some butter in the roaster.


Anonymous said...

The Lao/Viet market on Killingsworth/I-5 sells the single brew cup toppers behind the register.

I still have the original one passed down from my mom. It's is over 20 years old.

I use the standard Viet brand -- Trung Nguyen -- which is pretty darn cheap.

Any busy pho joint will hook you up, and I find the condensed milk-to-ice-and-coffee ratio waaaay too high. Like drinking candy - I prefer at home to just mix in a teaspoon.

Jillybombs said...

Hey Evan and Ali,

This is Jay Williams. I set you guys up with delivery of the Mercury this last summer or early fall-ish.

I just saw you guys were in Last Supper this week in the Merc. Congrats! I'm glad to hear everyone in Portland has figured it out.

I've been hearing about your milkshakes... They sound like trouble.


Ali and Evan said...

I'm planning on a new batch of ice cream this week. Don't you worry!!!

See you this week? Your macchiato awaits...

Leave it to you. From the bottom of our hearts, thanks for your constant support.

We miss you. You rock!

Guilty Carnivore,
Thanks for having such an awesome site and entertaining us constantly. Wold love to see your "vintage" brewer. Perhaps you could do a demo for Evan? ;)

Good to hear from you. Just so you know, we have a Messenger Sandwich with veggie bacon waiting for you any time. Re: the milkshakes? Allow me to say I do believe they are a worthwhile experience. Hope all is well at The Merc, take care and thanks for writing!