Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Food: A Tribute to the Vietnamese Coffee Maker

One of the most enduring memories of my childhood is sitting in a restaurant, staring at my Grandpa's cà phê phin, watching black coffee teardrops rain down onto a sea of creamy white condensed milk:

The Vietnamese-style coffee maker is about as far removed from a fancy-schmancy $200 espresso machine as you can get. It's a stainless steel strainer that costs maybe $5 (if that) at any Asian grocery store. You pour in coffee (I like coffees that contain chicory, like French Market or Cafe Du Monde), screw in the strainer lid snug over said coffee, and than add hot water to the top. Place the filter over a clear glass with a little condensed milk and you get a sweet coffee treat that requires no barista.

There's a certain simplicity and elegance to the whole affair, symbolized neatly by the black and white contents of your cup once the brewing's finished. It's an incredibly practical method of having coffee - no filter paper, no single use plastic cups, no mechanical devices to break down. Even the sweetened condensed milk is pragmatic, since it requires no refrigeration. Get a cà phê phin, and you can have the taste of a Saigon afternoon in your home whenever you like.


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