Last Updated 02/07/2021.
Salt coffee is all the rage these days, but did you know salt coffee has been around for years in Vietnam? We were lucky enough to spend a day touring the ancient city and nearby tombs of Hue Vietnam with two local girls. My son and I joined them, each hopping on the back of their expertly driven motor scooters. Our day began with coffee. Not in a modern chain coffee shop, there is indeed, Starbucks in some parts of Vietnam. No, they took us to a place to try local coffee, a place the locals go, not a tourist in sight. But this Hue coffee shop was special, it had been there forever and was the home of Vietnamese salt coffee. And there’s a very special story behind that.
Salt Coffee in Vietnam
This Vietnamese salt coffee wasn’t a new invention. Vietnam is famous for coffee and they serve it in some very inventive ways. Salt coffee in Vietnam is traditional and may be the original salt coffee. The girls told me that salt coffee originated in the ancient city of Hue, their home, and that this cafe was one of the most famous places to buy and drink salt coffee. It was a morning ritual for many local people.
The Story Behind Salt Coffee in Vietnam
This is the story they told me about the origins of salt coffee in Vietnam. As it was handed down to me, so they passed this history of salt coffee on to me.
A young fisherman got married. His young wife served him coffee as a new bride and accidentally added salt instead of sugar. He didn’t want to upset his new wife so he made a big fuss about how delicious his coffee was with salt. She was surprised, but delighted that her mistake had made her husband so happy. Because of this, she served him coffee with salt every day of their long and happy marriage. He never once complained and grew to love the salt coffee. It reminded him of the sea and his life as a fisherman.
How is Salt Coffee Made?
Salt coffee starts in the traditional way by brewing in a stainless steel device called a phin. You can buy a phin at any market and they make a great souvenir of Vietnam. If you’re not lucky enough to be in Vietnam, you can see a phin and buy one here. We have one at home and use it often.
Your coffee will come to the table dripping down into your coffee cup from the phin. The base of the cup will already contain salted cream or sweetened condensed milk. You then simply wait for the coffee to finish dripping into your coffee cup.
When the coffee has finished filtering, stir the cream and coffee together, then comes another unusual feature of salt coffee in Vietnam. You add ice cubes. This is something we do at home in tropical heat too, it suits the climate to drink hot drinks like coffee, cooler.
The combination of sweeted cream, salt, and the Vietnamese coffee beans, which are quite different to western coffee, give the drink a salted caramel or fudge-like flavour. My son absolutely loved it, he’s not usually a coffee drinker. I prefer western coffee made with arabica beans, black. This coffee wasn’t for me, but if you have a sweet tooth I’m sure it’s good.
We enjoyed our salt coffee at Ca Phe Muoi in Hue. Most Hue cafes will serve salt cofff, but this one is particularly popular and famous. Our local guides told us this was the best place to try salt coffee in Vietnam, certainly in Hue.
If you’re visiting Vietnam be sure to taste as much Vietnamese food as possible. In Hue, look out for bun bo Hue, a local specialty. All regions of Vietnam have distinct dishes particular to the region. Food in Hoi An (also in Central Vietnam) is particularly famous but Hue, being an Imperial city, has royal cuisine, there are many dishes to try. Coffee is a big part of the Vietnamese taste experience. Vietnamese coffee beans are less harsh than arabica, they’re slightly chocolatey in flavour. The robusta bean is more common in Vietnam than arabica. Also, look out for egg coffee in Hanoi and coconut coffee further south. We hope you found our post on egg coffee in Vietnam interesting. We met our young students for a day tour of Hue by booking with this company. We highly recommend these tours and it’s a local Vietnamese-owned company. Could you save this to Pinterest?