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I used to think that brewing a mug of Vietnamese style coffee took too much time. When I was a sleep deprived mother of two small children, I didn’t care how my coffee was brewed. I just need to gulp down a mug. Stat. Before I was distracted by the kids and had to reheat my mug for the tenth time in two hours.
The need for a shot of caffeine in the morning has not abated. On the weekends, I pull out my tin coffee filter and brew myself a mug of Vietnamese style coffee: cà phê sữa nóng. Literally it translates to “coffee milk hot.” When I was younger, trips to the phở restaurants were a treat. We had to drive to New Orleans in order to find any Vietnamese shops. My mom would let me order the biggest bowl on the menu: phở xe lửa (phở train).
Someone at our table almost always ordered a hot or iced coffee. I can’t remember if it was my mom or father, but eventually I started ordering them too. Vietnamese coffee is strong, almost like an espresso. Instead of milk and sugar, a dollop of sweetened condensed milk is added to the bottom of the mug before brewing. You can drink it hot or add to a glass of ice for the cold version.
To this day, I love my coffee strong, though not as sweet. On the weekends–when I have more time for breakfast, I pull out my mini-coffee filter and make myself cà phê sữa nóng. You can too!
Supplies for cà phê sữa
Note: You can make this in your regular coffee maker, as long as you make the coffee extra strong.
Vietnamese coffee filter: Made of metal, these usually make one cup of coffee. Opt for the 8oz of “single” serving ones. I’ve seen larger versions, but your coffee will become cold before it’s finished brewing. Each filter has three parts: the main cup that holds the water, an insert that presses down the coffee, and a lid that doubles as a coaster once the coffee is brewed. (See video for how to assemble)
Sweetened condensed milk: Any brand you like will do. My mom usually had a can of Longevity Brand in the fridge, but I’ve used all sorts. I wish Trader Joe’s would bring back their squeeze bottles of sweetened condensed milk.
Oh, and hot water. Hot but not boiling.
Optional: clear coffee mugs (about 8-10oz) so you can watch the coffee brew!
How to make cà phê sữa
I made a quick video (sped up) to show you how I make my coffee.
When you first pour in the water, wait for the coffee to absorb it before adding more. Fill to the top and cover with the lid. Add more water if needed.
For the cold version, pour the coffee over a ice.
Have any questions? Leave them in the comments!