Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Cold Coffee Chronicles

I count the seconds of the pour, like I did back in the days of helping a bartender pour his cocktails. One...Two...Three....Four....Five...Six.....Seven. The thick and glossy cream streams slowly from the opening in the can, creating a dense layer at the bottom of my glass. A smaller glass is placed on the table with an aluminum filter, dripping slowly with a dark, rich liquid. A third glass is placed on the table, full to the brim with large ice cubes. Eventually all three glasses will be united and the day will finally begin.

Coffee in Vietnam is more than a ritual, it is a practice of patience and a balance of temperatures. Ordering a Caphe Sua Da and taking your seat on a low stool of a crowded Hanoi cafe can test all of your morning fragility between sleep and caffeine, but the outcome is worth the wait.
While suspended in this purgatory of slowly trickling coffee, melting ice cubes and the unhurried pour of sweet and condensed milk, I simply take in the surroundings of my premier task of the day. 
Many minutes later, the dripping has stopped and I wipe the sweat from my forehead in the humid cafe.  Letting the coffee cool for just another minute and then pouring the coffee over the milk and the ice over the coffee. Stirring quickly, and pulling up the thin spoon with layers of thick milk to blend with the strong coffee. The mixture thins out with the melting ice, and becomes the color of a cloudy caramel. Overwhelmingly sweet, thick, cold and caffeinated. Like rocket fuel, it throws the adrenals into overdrive. I don't recommend Vietnamese ice coffee for the healthiest of lifestyles, then again, you could say it gives you an inner "push" and therefore feel free to replace your daily fiber intake with one of these puppies.

Caphe Sua Da- Vietnamese iced coffee

The days in Hanoi were spent with cold coffee and hot sun. Gathering up the street food offerings while bouncing in and out of any and all air conditioned rooms and museums. I spent over 2 weeks in Hanoi four years ago, curiosity kept me weaving through the streets of the old quarter while quickly loosing track of time. This trip was not much different as Hanoi kept us searching for daily little pleasures. We spent 20 days at the same hotel, with just two short trips outside the city center. Finding a sense of home within the city walls. It is something the weary traveler starts to search for after years of wandering. A tiny slice of ritual in the form of cold coffee and locals whom call you by name. 

::Some food porn from Hanoi:: 

banh mi - baguette, pork belly, pate, cucumber, cilantro, hot sauce.
Fish market, Ha Long Bay
Bun Cha- grilled pork belly, cold rice noodles, sweet broth, loads of greens

Banh Xeo- crispy crepe with pork, shrimp, mushroom, bean sprouts, and greens