Vietnamese iced tea gets all the attention. You can’t really fault the tea for it—it’s special, the color both vivid and soft, the red tea itself spicy and rich. You see someone else drinking a Vietnamese iced tea and you immediately want one yourself. You can’t help it. But Vietnamese coffee, though perhaps not as pretty, deserves to have the spotlight shone on it, too. The premise is the same: a strong brew walloped into submission by a very generous dose of sweetened condensed milk and drunk as the antidote to something spicy or the coda to a meal. Or just because. Where Vietnamese tea is as sweet as a bell is clear, its coffee counterpart is a bit more subtle—a little sultry, more velvet than silk. 

Because of this, Vietnamese coffee is much more suited to breakfast, just the thing to accompany a piece of toast, and special, the sweetened condensed milk doing a heck of a lot of work for something that was scooped out of a can. 

If you’re not already convinced, think of it this way: Keep a can of sweetened condensed milk on hand in the pantry and you have a defense against the terrible, no good, very bad mornings when you wake to find your carton of milk spoiled overnight. One or two spoonfuls and you’ve got your milk and sugar taken care of in one go.

Wondering what on earth to do with the leftover condensed milk? Stir it into hot tea (maybe masala chai). Spoon over a granita, perhaps a granita made from strong coffee for an icy interpretation of the recipe below. Spread it on toast. Whisk it into hot milk with a little cocoa powder. Make more Vietnamese coffee. 

Vietnamese Coffee

  • Yields: Makes 1

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Brew the coffee using whatever method you like. I use a pour-over filter, which I really love and which will most mirror a Vietnamese coffee you’d buy. Add the coffee to the filter (set over a mug) and pour a small amount of the water in a circular motion over the grounds, just enough to wet them. When you stop hearing it drip into the mug, pour the remaining water in a circular motion over the grounds. 

  2. Stir in the sweetened condensed milk, taste, and add more if you like. Drink hot and as is, or pour it into a tall glass filled with ice. Straw optional, but not really optional.