Oh, so when I was at the Vietnamese restaurant eating my Phở, I also ordered an iced coffee or Cà phê sữa đá (literally translated, “milk coffee with ice”). I was surprised when the waiter brought a glass of ice to the table along with a white ceramic coffee cup wearing a small silver metal hat. He noticed the perplexed look on my face and asked hesitantly in heavily accented English, ‘First time coffee?” I nodded yes, and he slightly lifted the hat – which turned out to be a type of coffee press – to show me that the pitch-black liquid was still dripping through. He then explained, ‘Wait, then stir.” As he walked away, I asked, “But, where’s the milk.” He smiled and said, “Under! Stir!” and went on back toward the kitchen. Huh? Under?
When the coffee dripped its last drop, I removed the filter and stuck the slender silver spoon into the dark recesses of the cup and was surprised to find resistance. I pulled the spoon back out and noticed it was coated with a thick layer of milk – sweetened condensed milk! Voila! So, that’s why it sat at the bottom without mixing with the coffee. I stirred and poured the whole mess over the ice in the glass and sipped. It was perfectly creamy and sweet and absolutely delicious! When I got home I found a can of condensed milk in the cupboard and made my own iced coffee – Vietnamese style. Who knew!
Check out these easy, step-by-step directions from Wandering Spoon food blog to make your own Cà phê sữa đá at home. (complete with ordering sources for both the coffee press and the coffee) http://www.wanderingspoon.com/ws/Vietnamese_Coffee_%28Ca_Phe%29_Text_and_illustrations_by_Bryan_Wu_-_Wandering_Spoon.html