As an alumna of the University of Alberta, one of my most valued undergraduate experiences was my time as a resident at Lister Hall [🎵 3 Henday, 3 Henday, 3 Hendaaaaaaay 🎶]. Amongst the many benefits of living in a large communal environment, I was blessed with the greatest floor mates in history. These folks are valued friends to this day, and they taught this introverted, pseudo-rural bumpkin much about life outside of my established Albertan borders…which (amongst many tasty things) is how I got hooked on Vietnamese food & coffee.
Burnt out from the semester and tired of cafeteria food, a few of us headed off-campus to a Vietnamese restaurant downtown; all guided by our floor mate who was of Vietnamese descent. Besides the soul-affirming noodle soups to cut the Edmonton winter chill, he recommended that we each order a Vietnamese coffee for a much-needed caffeine and sugar jolt. And wow, did this stuff deliver; not only on the jolts, but on its unique depth of flavour that the average latte just can’t reach.
I’m always thrilled to take on food or beverage blogs as I get to employ three of my favourite research techniques: delving into the murky depths of memory lane, sampling the goods, and digging into Bloomsbury Food Library’s database (through our University of Alberta Library website) for some solid background information.
On Vietnamese coffee, Tran (2011) writes, “French colonists first planted coffee on the mist-covered slopes of Vietnam’s central highlands. Since then, both arabica and robusta coffee plants have flourished, and cafe sua da, or iced milk coffee, has become an iconic, much-loved beverage.”
Going back in time to my first sampling of this amazing drink, I remember being fascinated by the percolator system that arrived at each of our places to brew our drinks while we waited for our food to come. I watched the activity from that little pot slowly progress into the glass below until my floor mate said it was time to stir everything together.
“Preparing the coffee is as much a ritual as drinking it: A metal filter fits over each individual cup, and an intensely dark, thick, strong brew drips slowly through it. A spoonful or two of sweetened condensed milk, a tall glass of chipped ice, and a long spoon all aid in transforming the coffee into a sweet, cooling drink,” (Tran, 2011).
Sweet and cooling, indeed! It’s a great chaser for a steamy bowl of pho, and by the time I get to my coffee, the ice has happily melted into the rest of the coffee and condensed milk for smooth slurping. The flavour is deep and robust. You get this rich coffee flavour that gives way to the delicate and creamy flavour of the condensed milk. There is no bitter aftertaste, just a harmonious transition on the palate from the savoury to the sweet.
PRO TIP: If you’re sensitive to either caffeine, sugar, or both, make sure that you’re enjoying this delicious concoction in the early afternoon as opposed to a few hours to bedtime. This became a drink of choice for us undergrads at the end of the semester (before we knew what Red Bull was) as it was perfect to fuel a long study session for finals!
Thanks for the read, and I wish you all the best as you finish up your Fall 2021 semester. In the spirit of this blog, may I suggest take-out from one of your local Vietnamese restaurants? Oh, and don’t forget to pair your Vietnamese coffee with one of Elisabet’s recommended reads from her blog on Diasporic Vietnamese Novels!
Love our blog posts? We invite you to subscribe to our newsletter (scroll down to the bottom right side of this page). You’ll also love us on social media! Check us out at @uofalibrary on Instagram, & Twitter!
Tran, T. (2011). Vietnam. In K. Albala (Ed.). Food Cultures of the World Encyclopedia: Asia and Oceania (pp. 275–282). Santa Barbara: © ABC-Clio Inc. Retrieved November 18, 2021, from http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781474208673.0034