The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Best discovery of Hanoi: Egg Coffee!

I first read about Hanoi's ca phe trung (egg coffee) on EatingAsia a few years ago, and I marvelled at the idea of combining egg and coffee. When we decided to visit Hanoi a few months ago, egg coffee was naturally on our list of things to try during our trip. When I told hubby we were going to try egg coffee in Hanoi, he thought it was just something different to try from a different country - though he was willing to try anything new and different, he told me later that he did not think much of egg coffee. When hubby actually tasted egg coffee for the first time, he was blown away by the flavours and textures of the drink. I'd already read Robyn's description of egg coffee on her EatingAsia blog - "warm eggnog, sans the booze and nutmeg and shot through with notes of caramel and chocolate. It's part dessert (though it's not cloyingly sweet), part restorative caffeinated beverage" - so I was more prepared for it, and I too fell in love with egg coffee. Egg coffee became our daily indulgence (in addition to consuming other Vietnamese yummies) during our five days in Hanoi, and it is our best discovery of Hanoi! We tried egg coffee (the kids had egg chocolate) at two places recommended by our hotel's concierge (who was excellent in his street food recommendations), Cafe Pho Co (also recommended by Robyn), and Giang Cafe. Both were not so easy to find, located at back entrances down a narrow corridor with seating areas up flights of stairs, but it was well worth the effort. Giang Cafe is purportedly where egg coffee was created by Mr. Nguyen Giang, back in the days when milk was scarce in Vietnam and yolks were used to replace milk. To compare the egg coffee at these two coffee shops, I preferred the friendly service and the cosy and warm atmosphere at Giang Cafe, and the drinks were also cheaper; however the egg flavour of the egg coffee was more pronounced at Cafe Pho Co, which we preferred.

Giang Cafe is hidden in a small lane, but it is well worth the effort to get there. Even the rain did not keep this crowd away:

Giang Cafe's Egg Coffee has the richness and thickness of eggnog, but not overwhelmed by the eggy flavour. The Egg Chocolate (pictured in the background) tasted like it was made with Milo, and topped with a heaped teaspoon of Milo powder:

We also tried Yogurt Coffee, served with a cup of crushed ice to add to preference. We weren't as keen on the Yogurt Coffee as we were on the Egg Coffee:

Giang Cafe
39 Nguyen Huu Huan Street
Hoan Kiem, Old Quarter
Hanoi, Vietnam

The entry to Cafe Pho Co is through a silk clothing shop and down a narrow corridor to an atrium at the rear of the building where you order and pay before heading up the stairs to the seating areas:

There were something like five flights of windy stairs to climb in this really old building to get to the rooftop seating area (there was also an indoor seating area midway up), but the lake view once up there is lovely:

The ca phe trung has two distinct layers of black coffee topped with a rich whipped egg foam. It was like drinking warm coffee custard:

The Egg Chocolate was delicious too, and could be improved with a topping of the Milo-like granules like at Giang Cafe:

On a second visit to Cafe Pho Co, we also ordered an Iced Egg Coffee to compare with the warm version (plus two orders of warm egg chocolates for the kids). We prefer our Egg Coffee warm:

Cafe Pho Co
11 Hang Gai Street
Hoan Kiem, Old Quarter
Hanoi, Vietnam

Egg coffee is definitely a must-try in Hanoi for anyone who likes coffee and eggs, especially at less than US$2 per drink!

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