EAT + DRINK: vietnamese iced coffee – cà phê sữa dá

Fromage and coffee and cognac and no gods.

Wallace Stevens

My dad loves coffee.  When I was a kid, I distinctly remember waking up to sounds of the expresso machine and walking into the kitchen to the clink of his teaspoon hitting the sides of his ceramic coffee cup. Sometimes I would stand next to the counter and watch him, transfixed on his easy gestures. After he was done, he’d always let me taste it– and as usual I would stick out my tongue and shrivel up my nose, even if I secretly enjoyed it.

Over the years, my dad’s methods of brewing coffee has changed to accommodate his morning, but I’ll never forget the way he preferred his coffee when he had enough time and patience to brew it the “right way.” I’ll never forget the way it tasted either– strong, bitter, milky, and sweet all at once, like a punch to the face that you embrace. Years and hundreds of unsatisfactory cups of coffee later, I finally have the right recipe and supplies (thanks for looking out, Dad!).

There are three things that you need to make a traditional cup of Vietnamese Iced Coffee:

Cafe Du Monde Coffee Chicory,
Longevity Sweetened Condensed Milk,
and a Vietnamese Coffee Filter Press With Gravity Insert.

Obviously you can use different brands, but why mess with the tried and true? The key here is the Vietnamese Coffee Press, as its mechanics compress the coffee and slowly filters hot water through the coffee grounds and into your cup.

One thing to note about Cafe du Monde coffee is that it is not 100% coffee, for you coffee purists out there. Rather, it is a blend of chicory and coffee and it comes pre ground in a beautiful orange tin (DIY tip: after you finish the tin and trust me, it will go fast, I love to take off the entire top and reuse it as a handy container for my measuring spoons, pens, utensils, etc. The Cafe du Monde graphic and color is super cute!). Chicory is made from the roasted and ground roots of the chicory plant and was historically introduced to coffee during the Civil War as a filler and a solution to the coffee shortage. Chicory in this blend cuts down the bitterness of the coffee and smooths out the edges with a subtle chocolatey taste. I honestly don’t know why Cafe du Monde coffee is the preferred coffee to use, but my dad swears that it’s the best and that all legitimate vietnamese iced coffee serving cafes and restaurants feature it.

And since we’re on a bit of a history tangent, it is worth mentioning that although coffee was first introduced to Vietnam by the French during their colonization (exact dates are debated but widely believed to have been sometime between the late 17th century and the 18th century), Cà Phê Sữa Đá, or Vietnamese Iced Coffee, is entirely a Vietnamese creation. Due to the lack of dairy sources in Vietnam, the usage of condensed and condensed sweet milk became the norm. You’ll find that in using condensed sweetened milk for this recipe, the coffee will be velvety smooth and thick– more of a strong sweet treat than your standard cup of morning coffee.

Vietnamese Iced Coffee – Cà Phê Sữa Đá

You will need:


  1. Spoon 1 tbsp condensed milk into a glass cup. Set aside.
  2. Unscrew the top of the filter press and set it aside. Spoon 3 tsp Cafe du Monde coffee into coffee filter cup and shake gently to level and to be rid of finer ground bits. Make sure to do this over the sink or a flat area that is easy to clean.
  3. Screw press back on, making sure to tighten as much as the coffee will allow. Set coffee filter onto the rim of the glass cup and pour just enough boiling water into the coffee filter to coat (about a shy tablespoon). Once this first pour absorbs into the filter, fill the cup up with boiling water and let drip.
  4. After all of the water has dripped through the filter, remove the filter (careful, it’s hot!) and stir the condensed milk until well blended. Take a sip and if it’s too strong, fill another cup with boiling water and let drip.
  5. Pour over some ice cubes and enjoy! You are now drinking coffee like a Vietnamese boss.

I recommend using this ratio for the first time that you make this coffee, and adjust to taste afterwards if need be. I personally like my coffee extremely strong (only one pass of boiling water) and moderately sweet (1 tbsp). It’s custom to enjoy Vietnamese Iced Coffee slowly over shaved ice, as the ice melts and dilutes the super strong coffee as you drink it, but hot or cold, drink as you prefer it. As this method requires a bit of patience, it is best enjoyed with a good friend on a slow morning.