25 March 2017
GIANG COFFEE

GIANG COFFEE

It’s no secret that coffee is big in Vietnam. As the world’s second largest coffee producer, coffee is an integral part of Vietnamese daily life. You’ve probably tried Vietnamese black coffee served with a spoonful of sweetened condensed milk known as caphe sua da beloved throughout the country. It’s a real eye-opener and is how most Vietnamese people prefer to start their day. Having said that, caphe sua da isn’t the only thing that’s got the people of Hanoi hooked; here they do things slightly differently.

Hanoi is the city of egg coffee. A drink created by Nguyen Giang during his time at the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hotel, he invented egg coffee during the French colonial era when milk was in short supply. Challenged with the task of creating an alternative to the popular cappuccino with hardly any milk, Mr. Nguyen whipped up egg yolks, condensed milk and coffee, and through numerous trials, perfected the beverage that would become known as egg coffee. It was a hit, and even after milk became widely available in Vietnam once more, egg coffee was here to stay.

You don’t have to go to the Sofitel to try Mr. Nguyen’s world famous egg coffee, just pop by his shop instead. Opened in 1946, Giang Coffee is a more than a traditional Vietnamese coffee shop, it’s practically an institution. Nestled down a narrow corridor, the shop is hidden away from view but isn’t entire hard to spot thanks to the constant stream of people walking in and out.

The shop has the air of an old family home, only more crowded. The space was bustling with waiters flying from the kitchen to tables carrying trays of the infamous egg coffee, the sound of blenders working away, and the register handling a line of customers. Upstairs, the same theme continued; chatter filled the air and people shuffled around trying to secure a seat.

The seats, I found, were so inherently Vietnamese: small wooden stools that sat low on the ground. The walls were aged and decorated with colorful pieces of artwork that appeared to be the result of years collecting. Locals sat huddled with friends and family, while tourists dotted every other table.

When the egg coffee finally arrived at our table, it became clear to see what all the fuss was about. Somewhere between a dessert and a drink, the creamy layer of sweet custard, think of the mascarpone in a tiramisu, sat on a pool of Vietnam’s take on an espresso. Creamy, sweet and bitter, egg coffee is the perfect pick me up to enjoy during Hanoi’s slightly chilly winter. The cup is served in a bowl of warm water to keep the egg coffee warm, and is best enjoyed stirred lightly and eaten with a teaspoon.

There are kid-approved options on the menu as well, such as chocolate egg coffee or hot chocolate with sweetened condensed milk; could anything else taste more like a Southeast Asian childhood? To enjoy with your drinks, order some sunflower seeds, but don’t expect them to be de-shelled for you. Bite on the shell lightly, get the seed, and when you’re done, discard the shell on the floor. No, it’s not rude, it’s just how things are done around here; just look at the floor around your feet.

As I learned, being over a half a century old is bound to win you a special place in the community. The parents who brought their kids over to enjoy a day out at the neighborhood’s favorite café had a similar experience in their childhoods, and their parents before them as well. Today, the shop also serves a slightly different clientele than it did 50 years ago, with people like me who come from afar to get a taste of what people in different places hold dear. Having stood the test of time while losing none of its charm, Giang Coffee and their world famous egg coffee isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Address: 39 Nguyễn Hữu Huân, Lư Thái Tổ, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Phone: +84 98 989 22 98
Opening hours: 7AM-10PM Everyday
Website: http://www.giangcafehanoi.com/

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