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I have been planning to get out traveling around the world for the last five years now. I love good food, especially the vibrant delicious tastes you only get with wonderful street food. One foodstuff I have been desperately looking forward to trying has been Vietnamese Egg Coffee. Called ca phe trung, or cà phê trứng, in Vietnamese. In the midst of the Covid lockdown, without the hope of traveling, I decided to bring Vietnam to my home.
Because condensed milk is actually the main ingredient, other than coffee, a Vietnamese Egg Coffee tastes much more like coffee-flavored condensed milk. The egg component is only egg yolk and it is whipped with the condensed milk to make a light, sweet, delicious, frothy, creamy topping for your brew. It tastes similar to tiramisu.
I have never made Vietnamese egg coffee, or tried it, before in my life. Turns out it is actually very easy to make. So I think I nailed it in my first attempt. It might not have been perfect, but it was definitely far Above Average.
Vietnamese Egg Coffee Is A Dessert Coffee
At first, egg coffee can sound a bit unappetizing. For me, the first picture that came to mind was a fried egg dunked into a mug of drip coffee. Delicious.
I think it might be easier to pitch it to the uninitiated as, “a sweet coffee called ca phe trung”. You’ll definitely get a better response with that. Especially with picky eaters. If you have to tell them there is raw egg in it, leave that out until they have at least had a sip or a whole mug.
Just to be completely clear here, it doesn’t taste anything like an egg. It is sweet, foamy, thick, creamy, and delicious. It’s a bit like liquid tiramisu in flavor.
The History of Vietnamese Egg Coffee
Egg coffee has the reputation of being an extravagant, luxurious, signature coffee of Hanoi, Vietnam. Interestingly, the magical brew was born out of a shortage of fresh milk in Vietnam, caused by the French War (also known as the First Indochina War).
Nguyen Van Giang was the genius behind the Vietnamese egg coffee. He hatched his idea in 1946 when he worked as a bartender in the Sofitel Legend Metropole hotel and had no milk to serve with coffee. He whipped up some egg yolk with sweetened condensed milk and used this egg cream as a milk substitute.
Guests at the hotel loved his new coffee. His new signature brew was so successful that Giang went on to start his own coffee shop.
Giang’s coffee shop is called Café Giang. It is still running today with his son at the helm of the business. They are still serving the brew, made to their own secret family recipe.
Vietnamese Egg Coffee Recipe
This is the recipe I followed to make two mugs of sweet, frothy, coffee nirvana.
Prep time is around 10 minutes but the total time varies depending on the type of coffee maker you choose.
It doesn’t take much to make ca phe trung. Just three ingredients and one of those is freshly brewed coffee.
- 1 egg yolk
- 4 tablespoons (2oz / 60ml) of Sweetened Condensed Milk
- 2 Espresso Shots (or strong coffee)
First, I set up my Moka pot so that it was on the stove and ready for me to just add heat. Grind the coffee beans and add them to the basket. Top up the water chamber and screw the pot together ready to brew a cup of coffee.
It doesn’t have to be a Moka pot you use, you can choose absolutely any coffee you like for your own Vietnamese Egg Coffee be it drip, French press, espresso or even instant coffee. What you’re aiming for is a strong, concentrated, coffee taste in the mug; so the Moka pot is my choice.
If you want to keep it really authentic then choose a Vietnamese coffee filter set (which can be found on Amazon) and pair this set-up with Vietnamese coffee beans.
To begin making the sweet frothy goodness, begin by cracking an egg and separate the yolk from the white. To do this, I get two small bowls, crack the egg, but don’t drop the contents out of the shell. Keep the yolk in one-half of the eggshell and let the white gently fall out into one of the bowls. If the yolk does start to slip out, gently catch it with the other shell half. Drop that yolk in the second bowl.
I didn’t use the egg white in the coffee, but I did use it in my breakfast. Scrambled eggs. You could even use the leftover whites in a meringue.
Measure out four tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk into the yolk bowl. The stuff is thick, so it might help to use a butter knife to scrape the excess off the spoon as you measure it out. Don’t forget to lick the spoon.
The next step is to whip the yolk and condensed milk. Luckily, I have an electric mixer in the kitchen so I used that. You can absolutely whip it up by hand, it’ll just take more effort and time.
You want to whip it until there are lots of tiny bubbles on the surface. You will get soft whipped peaks forming when you let dribbles fall from your whisk back into the mix. The whole mixture should roughly double in volume.
Just as I was almost satisfied that my condensed milk-egg mixture was completely whipped, I turned on the stove to start heating up my Moka pot.
Make sure your coffee is ready in time for the condensed milk-egg mix to be completely whipped.
Once your egg mix is whipped and coffee brewed, there is nothing left to do but spoon, or pour, your egg mix into the coffee.
You can serve this over iced for a Vietnamese iced coffee drink or warm the egg mixture gently by placing the container over a bowl of hot water as you whisk it. Do not heat the mixture directly on the stovetop as this scan cause the eggs to scramble!
Sit back and let your tastebuds marvel at this sweet concoction.
When In Rome, Or In This Case, Hanoi
Vietnam is one of many countries I am determined to visit. If you are ever visiting Vietnam, and Hanoi in particular, make sure that you don’t miss the opportunity to try a Vietnamese Egg Coffee made by the family that created the historic drink itself.
Although you can recreate ca phe trung at home and can certainly make an Above Average Coffee, the original will always be best.
Other Types of Egg Coffees
Ca Phe Trung is not the only egg coffee in the world. Giang absolutely invented an amazing coffee but it’s not completely unique.
- Kopi Telur (From Padang, West Indonesia). Kpoi Telur is very similar to Ca Phe Trung. Whisk egg yolk with two teaspoons of honey, a quarter teaspoon of vanilla extract, and a quarter cup of hot water. Gently drop a tablespoon of condensed milk and a shot of espresso into the mixture. The three parts mixture is made up of equal parts whisked egg mix, condensed milk, and coffee, and these are layered on top of each other.
- Sri Lankan Egg-Brandy Coffee. Swap the condensed milk for a shot of brandy. Whip a whole egg (both yolk and white) with brandy, 3 teaspoons of sugar, and fresh coffee. Serve it up hot!
- Scandinavian Egg Coffee. This one has some potential to get a bit gritty. Crack one egg, mix it with 6.75oz (200ml) of cold water, and 20g of coarsely ground coffee until it becomes a lovely smooth consistency. Pour in 13.5oz (400ml) of boiling water and leave it to brew for 4 minutes. Add another 3.4oz (100ml) of cold water and then strain it through a fine sieve to get the coffee grounds out. Enjoy!
More About Vietnam and its Food
My love of Vietnamese food was first sparked by a restaurant which was near my old student flat in Glasgow. This restaurant was called The Hanoi Bike Shop.
If you are ever visiting Glasgow, make sure you get a meal at the Hanoi Bike Shop. The restaurant has made me realize there is such a wide variety of delicious Vietnamese food. Vietnam does so much more than Pho.
Since eating there, Vietnam has been a major country on my bucket list. Being able to whip up some Vietnamese Egg Coffee has only reignited my love of Vietnamese food and my travel itch.
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