With only 10 minutes to spare before our van departed from Sapa we finally spotted a small placard in the window that read, “Egg Coffee.” Aha! There it is! The coffee my colleague warned me not to miss. We ducked inside and called up to the hotel owner to see about grabbing a cup to go, but quickly realized that this wasn’t any ordinary coffee that just sits on the warmer waiting for the next customer and there wasn’t enough time to prepare it for me. I left disappointed.
When I mentioned my regret to Thuy, our Niteo tour guide, she insisted that to have it somewhere other than where the original recipe resides was a waste of time anyway. She would take me to Giang Café in Hanoi to sample the very best.
Egg coffee (also known as Coffee Tiramisu) originated in a Vietnamese hotel in 1946 during the French War when a shortage of fresh milk in the country led a bartender named Nguyen Giang to substitute egg in for milk. Today’s version, especially the recipe served up by Nguyen’s son Tri at Giang Café, is wildly popular and listed among the top ten drinks in the world.
Giang Café isn’t easy to find. Even people on return trips to the shop can overlook the understated sign above the door. You enter through a small narrow hallway, pass by the small staging kitchen, and climb upstairs to a room that resembles a bohemian coffee shop you might find on a college campus in America. The distinct difference is immediately obvious – the tables (and patrons) sit much lower to the floor.
When I think back now to my idea of pouring this delicacy into a paper cup to take on the road, it seems ridiculous. I’ve since learned that egg coffee is meant to be sipped slowly in the company of friends, stirred with a silver spoon, and delivered in a proper cup that is sitting in a bath of warm water. This beverage is decadent. Some have labeled it “Coffee Tiramisu” because of its layers of coffee and thick sweet cream whipped with egg yolks.
With the popularity of Egg Coffee in recent years, copies are being served in many shops around Vietnam, but Giang is not worried by the inferior competition. His original and protected family recipe is said to incorporate additional unknown ingredients that others miss – some have suspected that his coffee contains things like butter and cheese (to read more on this topic link here).
Of course the BEST way to have Egg Coffee is in Hanoi at the original shop, but you can try a variation at home with this recipe*:
Cà Phê Trung – Egg Coffee (serves one)
Prepare Vietnamese coffee or any strong black robusta coffee (think espresso!)
Prepare egg cream
Whisk together vigorously until thick:
- 2 egg yolks
- 3 Tbsp sweetened condensed milk
- 1 tsp sugar
- ½ tsp vanilla flavoring (optional)
Pour coffee into cups, filling it 1/3 full
Spoon egg cream over coffee
Sprinkle with Vietnamese coffee powder or cocoa
*Recipe taken from www.mokabees.com. To link to the recipe with photos click here
Have you tried Egg Coffee? What did you think?