Treat Your Sweet Tooth With Vietnamese Iced Coffee

The next time you've got a sweet tooth, try treating it with a Vietnamese iced coffee (cà phê sữa đá). This robust, creamy beverage is made using dark roast coffee grounds prepared using a special Vietnamese coffee filter — called a phin — that sits atop your glass, allowing the coffee to slow-drip right down into the glass or mug. And while this coffee can be enjoyed hot, it's more popularly poured over crushed ice. But the real star of this show is the added sweetened condensed milk that will quell even the most insistent sugar cravings.

Not to be confused with evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk does have common features with evaporated — both are shelf-stable concentrated forms of milk, containing less water than fresh milk. They're both often packaged in cans and used in holiday baking. But while evaporated milk is unsweetened and thinner, sweetened condensed milk contains a hefty dose of added sugar (around 40 percent), resulting in a thick, creamy, and cloyingly sweet product, perfect for treats like peanut butter fudge, or boil-in-a-can caramel sauce

Sweetened condensed milk consolidates resources, getting you more bang for your buck by providing both milk and sugar. And while sweetened condensed milk is ideal for making homemade creamers, it's even better in its fully concentrated form, such as it is when used in iced Vietnamese coffee. Now, what's not to like?

Enjoying Vietnamese coffee

If you'd like to try this richly flavored, decadently syrupy treat, there are plenty of opportunities to purchase iced Vietnamese coffee in Vietnamese restaurants, bánh mì shops, and specialty coffee shops. There's even a version called, Lee's Cafe Latte Frozen Concentrate available at Costco, but if you'd like to jump in with both feet and DIY your sugar high, you'll need to gather a few essential ingredients to whip up your own version. 

As with any recipe, you can do this as authentically as possible or make do with a more accessible approximation at home — it's up to your tastes, budget, and perspective. Your first choice comes with the coffee purchase. There are various Vietnamese-style coffee grounds available in Asian markets or online, such as the popular Trung Nguyen or Café Du Monde (a blend with chicory root), but in a pinch, French roasts are very similar in flavor. 

Likewise, you can order a traditional Vietnamese coffee filter online (search for phin, Vietnamese dripper, or Vietnamese press), or sub with a French press or any pour-over coffee dripper. Next, comes sweetened condensed milk: While Longevity is a popular Vietnamese brand, any will do, even non-dairy coconut and oat milk versions. The choice of whether to drip your coffee over the condensed milk or do it vice versa, is yours. You could pop the condensed milk in with the ice and pour the coffee over, then swirl together as you sip. Either way, that's it, easy-peasy.