Just in time for the Christmas holidays, eggnog coffee
Just when we think the locals can’t get any more creative with their coffee, they proved us wrong. Ever since Vietnamese egg coffee landed as number one on BuzzFeed’s list of 17 Ways To Drink Coffee Around The World in a couple of months ago, the drink has inspired new cafes dedicated to this specialty. As the name implies, the hot beverage is made of egg, coffee, condensed milk and some furious whisking. While the hot beverage may be new over in the West, ca phe trung, as it’s called in Vietnam, has been a Hanoian staple for several decades.
“Ngyen Van Giang was the person who created the egg coffee,” says Thuan, barista at Lu Gia, a café that recently added the drink to their menu. “He was the chief barista at the Sofitel Legend Metropole in Hanoi during the French colonial era. The story is he invented the egg coffee because he missed drinking hot Western lattes after he left his job.” After leaving the Sofitel, Giang opened up two cafes on Nguyen Huu Huan and Yen Phu streets where he mostly served traditional Vietnamese coffee to the locals.
“At the time, he couldn’t recreate his favorite lattes because he didn’t have milk and cream. That may sound silly to some people but in those days, Vietnam was a difficult place, milk and cream were luxury food items. So he made do with what he had – coffee and eggs – and that was how egg coffee was invented. Back then his egg drinks weren’t very popular with the local folks who liked their traditional style coffee. But with time it eventually caught on and is now on almost every café menu in Hanoi.”
The drink starts with fresh chicken eggs, with the yolks and white separated, then the yolks are stirred in a mixer with drops of honey (or condensed milk). Hot coffee brewed from grounded beans becomes the bottom layer of the cup. The beaten yolk mixture makes the middle and on top is the beaten egg white. The result is layers of flavors that contrast and complement each others in interesting ways: the rich, bitter tang of coffee, the buttery egg yolk, the sweetness of the honey, and on top of that, egg white that tastes like whipped cream, only finer.
“It tastes like tiramisu cake,” says Thuan.
Cafes in Saigon are starting to catch up with this originally Hanoi trend. Many have even put their own spin on ca phe trung with egg cacao and egg matcha. For those who can’t journey all the way to Hanoi to enjoy egg coffee from Giang’s shops, here are a couple cafes in Saigon where the drinks are just as good as the original.
Luu Gia Cafe
8 Hoa Cuc, Phu Nhuan
093 416 2508
Ghe Go Cafe
61/13 Luu Nhan Chu, Tan Binh
0168 997 4978
Khong Gian Cafe
23 Nguyen Thien Thuat, D3
573/12 Su Van Hanh, D10
3868 0999Images by Neil Featherstone