Yes, you read the title right – Egg Coffee. It really is a thing – and it’s a must try thing when you’re in Hanoi. And the place we had it is where it all began – Café Giang.
Hanoi likes its coffee. Everywhere you go you’ll find coffee shops and places selling an assortment of coffee made from coffee beans and also from beans that have been predigested and ‘harvested’ from animals. I wouldn’t be putting my hand up for that job.
So, we know that coffee is a big deal here.
The story goes that Mr Nguyen Giang was working as a barman at the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hotel. As an aside, that hotel is on my places to stay or at least have a cocktail at bucket list.
One night in 1946 Mr Giang ran out of milk to serve with the coffee. Milk was in scarce supply in those days. Instead he whisked together some egg, sugar and condensed milk and served that on the coffee. The crowd went wild, and Mr Giang, being a forward thinking gent, opened his own café and the rest, as they say, is history.
There are others who have attempted to imitate the original, but of course the best place to get it – Cà Phê Trứng – is at Café Giang in the Old Quarter. Old Mr Giang’s son, Nguyen Van Dao, is in charge today, but the recipe itself (which apparently also includes a little butter and cheese…yes, really…) is a closely guarded secret.
Café Giang is, quite literally, a hole in the wall that, judging from the number of people inside – both locals and tourists – is not much of a secret at all. Upstairs should, however, come with a health warning for the more flexibly challenged of us. The seats are kindergarten height and let me tell you, once I’m down there, it’s more than a tad difficult to get back up.
Anyways, you want to know how it tastes? I absolutely don’t have a sweet tooth – and rarely eat cakes or desserts – so for me it was too sweet. Others have compared it to a liquid tiramisu and the chocolate version to a Cadbury crème egg. As for me? I ate the top with a spoon and didn’t find it unpleasant. I didn’t taste the egg at all. For me it was more like a vanilla coffee custard. It certainly took away any bitterness that might have previously been in in the coffee.
How do you make it? Well, at least an approximation of it? I’m glad you asked.
First you need to brew a small cup of coffee – real coffee, not instant. Of course, if you’re a purist, you’d just happen to have Vietnamese coffee beans and a Vietnamese coffee pot handy.
Now, take an egg yolk and some sweetened condensed milk and whisk it until you have a fluffy mix – and fairly decent biceps.
Add a tablespoon or so of the brewed coffee and whisk it in too.
Pour your coffee into a cup – reserving a tablespoon to drizzle over the top – and add the fluffy crème egg mix.
There you have it.
It goes without saying that this isn’t going to do your diet any good, but if you’re in Hanoi, you simply must give this a go.
Cafe Giang, 39 Nguyễn Hữu Huân, Old Quarter, Hanoi
Because it’s Monday, I’m linking up with Denyse Whelan and Life this week...