Sip a 'ca phe sua da'

To suggest that "ca phe sua da" (iced coffee with condensed milk) symbolizes a unique component of Vietnamese culture, particularly in Saigon, is an understatement. The very name of the drink conjures up feelings of romanticism; in fact, there's a popular song here called Saigon Ca Phe Sua Da that tries to capture the true affection that Saigon residents have for the beverage.


Owning a large coffee growing area and outstanding quality, Vietnam is the largest coffee exporting country in the world – and it is available nearly everywhere and inexpensive. Ca phe da (black coffee with ice) is robust and sweet, with a richness that is almost chocolate-like. Coffee milk ice, or "ca phe sua da," can be made by adding condensed milk.

Vietnamese coffee is sold on practically every street in Ho Chi Minh City, generally at little outside businesses on the pavements owned by women. Customers can serve themselves coffee by sitting on small stools placed on the pavement. Even in the midst of the tropical heat, scorching sun, afternoon downpours, and honking cars, most people prefer to enjoy coffee on the sidewalk.


Stopping at a store belonging to the Trung Nguyen, Phuc Long, or Highlands Coffee chains would be a good decision if you're tired of the scorching heat and want to have some Vietnamese iced coffee in an air-conditioned environment for a while. They're comparable to Starbucks in Vietnam, having a solid reputation and excellent coffee. Naturally, a café is more expensive than a street vendor, but the coffee is tastier, the seats are more forgiving on your back, and they all offer Wi-Fi and air conditioning.

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