Vietnamese iced milk coffee

I love Sundays. Specifically, I love Sundays where I don’t have anything to do, and I can spend the entire day alternately loitering and lounging in the garden with a newspaper (admittedly, I’m not that good at lounging, I usually get fidgety and annoy everyone around me intensely, but I relish the possibility of lounging). When I woke up this morning, I knew today was going to be one of those Sundays and that made me happy.

What made me happier still was that, when I rolled up the blinds, there was not a cloud in the sky and it was HOT. After the ‘summer’ we’ve been having here, these kinds of days are to be seized. All the weather reports ominously say that this is the last fine weather we’ll have before autumn, so I decided to capitalise on the sunshine with one of my absolute favourite hot-weather treats: Vietnamese iced milk coffee, or ca phe sua da.

For the uninitiated, this is iced coffee made with really strong Vietnamese coffee and, crucially, condensed milk. When I was in Vietnam a few years ago, I just could not get enough of this chilled delight, and I’ve longed to recreate it here ever since. Really, the coffee needs to be made with a Vietnamese drip coffee filter, using strong French roast coffee such as Trung Ngyuen or Cafe du Monde (which is a coffee-chicory blend). The drip filter produces exceptionally strong, almost bitter coffee, which is tempered by the glorious creaminess of the condensed milk.

Of course, when I woke up and decided to make ca phe sua da on a whim this morning, I had neither the drip filter nor the proper Vietnamese coffee for it, and Cowley really lacks in the Asian supermarket department.

But I am not a girl to be held back by these kind of minor details. If you want a recipe for proper Vietnamese iced milk coffee, check out this one from Hungry Huy. Below is my recreation. It may not be authentic, but on a sun-filled September’s morning it certainly hit the spot.


Vietnamese iced milk coffee/Ca phe sua da

Makes 2 glasses

What you need

4 tbsp strong ground coffee

2 tsp condensed milk (more if you like it really sweet)

Crushed ice to fill 2 glasses

A cafetiere

How to make it

  1. First, make your coffee. I used 4 tbsp of strong coffee in a large cafetiere or French press, filled only half way. Before plunging it, leave to brew for about 10 minutes. Don’t worry about the coffee getting cold – it is going to get iced, after all.
  2. While you leave the coffee to brew, spoon some condensed milk into the bottom of two tall glasses, then fill up with ice.
  3. Once your coffee is brewed and cooled slightly, press down the plunger and divide evenly between the two glasses.
  4. Stir to mix in the condensed milk, and check for sweetness. Add more condensed milk to suit your taste.
  5. Sit back and enjoy.