Hanoi’s famous egg coffee is light, sweet and frothy. It’s like drinking liquid tiramisu.
Forget your skinny latte and your decaf macchiato. Don’t even think about a cappuccino or a flat white.
In Hanoi, the only coffee worth drinking is a creamy mix of egg yolk, cheese, butter, coffee powder, condensed milk and one or two other secret ingredients.
The egg coffee – cà phê trúng – may sound like a puzzling concoction that’s too much to stomach, but it’s been a hit with locals and tourists since the French Vietnam War of the 1940s, when milk was scarce.
You can find egg coffee in cafes all over Hanoi these days, but Cafe Giang has built an international reputation for the brew and claims to have invented it.
The cafe has two locations: the most popular with tourists and the one most written about is found down a narrow alley in Hanoi’s Old Quarter (39 Nguyen Huu Huan Street). But I decided to try the larger coffee shop at (106 Yen Phu Street pictured).
Unlike its smaller offshoot, it’s impossible to miss Cafe Giang at Yen Phu Street. It sits alongside a busy road, with dozens of motorbikes parked in an orderly row on the pavement outside.
Half a dozen locals sit on tiny red stools sipping coffee, smoking and chatting, while inside the subtle smell of meringue wafts through the air.
Behind a busy counter, a barista whips eggs and condensed milk to form a type of sabayon for the egg coffees.
They say a good egg coffee shouldn’t taste of egg, more like vanilla, and this one does not disappoint.
The egg froth is light with a meringue-like texture that floats atop a bold Vietnamese coffee. It seems to keep the dark rich coffee warm.
Calorie-wise, this is quite the opposite of a skinny latte. It’s more like drinking liquid tiramisu.
And while it’s enjoyable, it’s really too sickly sweet for my liking. Still, I’m glad I tried it.
You can order egg coffee hot or cold, for about $US1.15 each. Compared with street food in Hanoi, that price is actually on par with the cost of a bánh mì sandwich or bowl of pho, Vietnam’s staple noodle soup.
The cold egg coffee, laden with ice, is more like a dessert and tastes like coffee ice-cream. You can also get egg with chocolate, egg with rum and chocolate – even egg with beer.
I wasn’t game to try that as it was barely 8am.
FUN FACT Vietnam is the second-largest producer of coffee in the world. It also produces one of the most expensive brews - so-called ‘weasel coffee’ - which is produced by civets eating ripened coffee cherries and passing them later. The beans are then picked out of the dung, thoroughly washed and roasted to produce a rich and smooth drink.