· Ca phe sua da (Vietnamese style iced coffee)
· 2 to 4 tablespoons finely ground dark roast coffee
· 2 to 4 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk!)
· Boiling water
· Vietnamese coffee press [see notes]
· Ice cubes
Place ground coffee in Vietnamese coffee press and screw lid down on the grounds. Put the sweetened condensed milk in the bottom of a coffee cup and set the coffee maker on the rim. Pour near boiling water over the screw lid of the press; adjust the tension on the screw lid just till bubbles appear through the water, and the coffee drips slowly out the bottom of the press.
When all water has dripped through, stir the milk and coffee together. You can drink it like this, just warm, as ca phe sua nong, or over ice, as ca phe sua da. To serve it that way, pour the milk-coffee mixture over ice, stir, and drink as slowly as you can manage.
A Vietnamese coffee press looks like a stainless steel top hat. There’s a “brim” that rests on the coffee cup; in the middle of that is a cylinder with tiny perforations in the bottom. Above that rises a threaded rod, to which you screw the top of the press, which is a disc with similar tiny perforations. Water trickles through these, extracts flavor from the coffee, and then trickles through the bottom perforations. It is excruciatingly slow. Loosening the top disc speeds the process, but also weakens the resulting coffee and adds sediment to the brew.
If you can’t find a Vietnamese coffee press, regular-strength espresso is an adequate substitute, particularly if made with French-roast beans or with a dark coffee.
Vietnamese coffee should taste more or less like melted Haagen-Dazs coffee ice cream, while Thai iced coffee has a more fragrant and lighter flavor from the cardamom and half-and-half rather than the condensed milk. Both are exquisite, and not difficult to make once you’ve got the equipment.