Saturday, January 31, 2015

Unpacking my Bag, Part 1

We've been home for almost 48 hours. Ed is still waking up at "way-too-early" hours and then insists on an afternoon nap. Neither one of us can make it past 9 p.m.

I've unpacked my suitcase and started a load of laundry. I saved my carry-on bag to unpack with you. I wanted to show you some of the souvenirs that we brought home from our travels to Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.

Item #1: metal coffee filters, large and small size

Coffee drinking seems to be the national pastime in Vietnam. And I'm not talking about Grande Skim Lattes from Starbucks. I'm talking about tiny cups of super strong French roast coffee cut with super sweet condensed milk, served at luke-warm temperatures or poured over ice. Vietnamese coffee: It takes some getting used to.

Coffee was introduced to the Vietnamese by French colonists in the late 19th century. Because of limitations on the availability of fresh milk, the people of Vietnam began to use sweetened condensed milk with a dark roast coffee. 

The last afternoon we were in Hanoi, our guide took us to a Trung Nguyen coffee shop and insisted that we try a cup of Legendee -- otherwise known as weasel coffee -- brewed with a single-cup filter. The legend in Legendee coffee has to do with stories about natives who drank a brew from coffee beans that had been partly digested by civits, small furry animals similar to a weasel. Their poop was collected and the beans separated out and brewed into civet coffee. I kid you not. Trung Nguyen, the largest domestic coffee brand within Vietnam, eventually found natural enzymes that duplicate this process and leaves the weasels to blissfully go on their way. 

Anyway, to make a long story short, we tried a cup of Legendee and bought a bag of Trung Nguyen French roast coffee and headed on our way south in Vietnam. Along the way, I purchased two of the aluminum coffee filters at local markets so that I could replicate our coffee experience once we were home. 

Last night before going to sleep I was flipping through a Martha Stewart Living magazine that arrived while we were gone and sure enough, on page 20, there was Martha extolling the deliciousness of Vietnamese iced coffee, made with Trung Nguyen coffee and little metal coffee filters. I am so ahead of Martha....


Vietnamese Iced (or not) Coffee
adapted slightly from Martha Stewart Living, February 2015

  • 1 to 2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 heaping tablespoon ground Vietnamese coffee, such as Trung Nguyen
  • directions
  • Pour sweetened condensed milk into a tall, narrow heatproof glass.
  • Remove lid and filter insert. Place coffee in base of filter; tap to settle into an even layer. Place insert on top of coffee grounds and adjust to even out grounds and secure in place (do not pack). Place filter on top of glass.
  • Wet coffee with simmering water (it should rise just above insert); wait for grounds to absorb water, 20 seconds. Add more simmering water, filling to top of filter chamber. Top with lid. Let drip, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove filter. 
  • Either drink warm, or pour over a glass filled with ice. Stir well.
Note: the coffee and metal filter used for this drink are available at, or you can come out to Farm Dover and I'll make you one. 


Next up: Unpacking my Bag, Part 2: Scarves

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