Morning Coffee: Coffee on Demand

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Coffee is a big part of the social life of Saigon, a city that somehow manages to be both languid and relentlessly energetic in nearly equal measure. Hundreds of cafés and coffee stands dot the city: relaxed neighbourhood hangouts with a few plastic seats out front to watch the city go by; leafy park cafés where middle-aged women chat and men bring birdcages; multistoried cafés with elaborate fountains and gardens, oases hidden in unremarkable lanes. But even when there isn’t a café, it’s still easy to get coffee.

On a warm afternoon earlier this week, a few friends and I found ourselves in a small park in District 1, just around the corner from the Notre-Dame Basilica and Saigon’s tourist hub. Not long after we sat down, a woman came up to us and asked us if we wanted any coffee. We ordered three cà phê sữa đá (iced coffee with condensed milk) and one black iced coffee. About five minutes later, a man on a motorbike arrived with the coffees in a wire tray and the woman brought them to us. We paid 26,000 dong (about $1.80) for the four drinks.

Somehow, the fact that the coffee woman was wearing a Parasuco t-shirt emblazoned with the words “Montréal, Québec, Canada” made the candy-sweet coffee even more delicious.

This entry was written by Christopher DeWolf , posted on Saturday February 07 2009at 01:02 am , filed under Asia Pacific, Food, Society and Culture and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

5 Responses to “Morning Coffee: Coffee on Demand”

  • Patrick says:

    Condensed milk is under-used in the west.

  • Interesting to see the Parasuco t-shirt in Vietnam.

    How is the coffee there? In Korea, coffee was everywhere, extremely expensive, and terribly weak.

  • It’s great. Vietnam is one of the world’s great coffee growers and it’s a staple beverage in the same way that it is in many European countries. Vietnamese coffee is quite distinct in the way that it is ground and brewed too.

  • Zvi says:

    What great service! Did you know how much it would be before you placed your “order”? I assume that the coffee there is similar to the “Vietnamese coffee” that one finds at Vietnamese restaurants elsewhere? Made very strong (and almost syrupy in consistency) in a single-portion sized caffetiere-type thing, and then served over ice with optional condensed milk.

    Happy travels….

  • It’s made in exactly the same way, but I think the roast is different, since North American restaurants usually use French roast coffee.

    My friend speaks Vietnamese so I’m not actually sure how the actual transaction went, but there’s pretty much a guarantee that it will be cheap. The most expensive coffee we had was only about $2 CDN.