For as coffee obsessed as we all are, it’s astonishing that Vietnamese iced coffee has not caught on in a more substantial way. All of the key components are there for it to be a smash hit in the western hemisphere, and yet it hasn’t. I love it enough that I created my Keto Sweetened Condensed Coconut Milk with it in mind in order to be able to enjoy it on my keto diet.
To their credit, keto and low carb dieters do seem to be more open to trying food that is outside the mainstream. I think that it is possibly due to the fact that they already have a bit of a maverick status and self-image as eaters. While low carb is becoming more commonplace, it is still hugely in the minority compared to the Standard American Diet. It’s spawned a bit of a exploring, pioneer’s spirit in food that is really exciting to be a part of.
So, keto’ers — this is my bid to get you to explore something new in coffee and popularize a drink that is long past due to have its day: Vietnamese Iced Coffee.
So, when I say the “key components are there”, what exactly do I mean?
It’s higher in caffeine. Let’s not kid ourselves, as much as we profess to like the taste of coffee, it would be a much less interesting proposition without the caffeine content. The Arabica beans in most coffee you encounter in grocery stores and coffee shops is valued for its milder, less-harsh flavor. The trade-off is that they are lower in caffeine. Not so with Vietnamese coffee. The Robusta variety of coffee bean that is the backbone of most Vietnamese blends is packed with caffeine.
It’s more flavorful. This goes straight to the variety of (often heirloom) beans contained in Vietnamese blends. My preferred brand, Trung Nguyen, contains the Excelsa, Catimor, Liberica varieties along with Robusta and Arabica beans. This diverse blend combined with the dark roast yields greater and more complex flavor than your typical morning cup. This is an idea that appeals to me. It is one of the reasons why I don’t put cream in my morning coffee. It dilutes my morning cup to the point that it tastes like coffee-flavored nothing. It also allows the coffee to stand up to the dilution that ice brings. Speaking of cream…
It’s creamier. The intense, almost-too-harsh flavor of Vietnamese iced coffee cries out for the mouthfeel and flavor of dairy. It is literally the only coffee I will put dairy in because I have such a pet peeve about still being able to taste the coffee. If you haven’t noticed, people are really into cream and sugar in their coffee. I hope I now have your attention, Starbucks-drinkers. And that leads me to…
It’s crazy sweet. Vietnamese coffee is a really interesting topic in food anthropology if you ever have the time to read about it. The Cliffs Notes version is that it came from the French occupation of Vietnam, but the perishability of dairy is a big problem in the hot, tropical climate. Enter shelf-stable canned sweetened condensed milk. The additional bonus is that people obviously love sugar — it’s delicious and addictive.
So, intense caffeine buzz. More flavorful. Creamier. Sweeter. Is there a downside here?
There is a huge downside, as we low carb and keto diet people know. The sugar adds a huge amount of carbs and the dairy certainly doesn’t help that equation. How do we get around this?
This is why when I developed my recipe for Keto Sweetened Condensed Coconut Milk, it was actually Vietnamese Iced Coffee I had it in mind for. It solves the dairy and sugar problem in one fell swoop with greatly reduced carbohydrate content. Additionally, the coconut milk is geographically correct to work with Vietnamese iced coffee. I love the complex, tropical taste it brings.
Vietnamese Iced Coffee
Place 4 tablespoons of sweetened condensed coconut milk in each of two large coffee mugs. Microwave briefly on high (15-20 seconds) and stir briskly. This step melts the sweetened condensed coconut milk and dissolves any of the sweetener that has recrystallized in the refrigerator. If you are starting with fresh sweetened condensed milk, you can skip this step.
Brew the coffee according to your coffeemaker's instructions. It will be very, very strong. If you'd like a more complete explanation of why this is what we can, read the recipe notes section below.
Split the brewed coffee between the two mugs and stir to mix in the sweetened condensed coconut milk. At this point you should taste to determine whether it is sweet enough for you. Add stevia glycerite to sweeten to taste.
Carefully pour the coffee over ice into two fresh glasses. Consume immediately.
Vietnamese iced coffee is generally made with a small metal filter called a phin that sits on top of the glass you are brewing into. It doesn't have to be, though. For our purposes it is totally sufficient if you just brew the coffee to a really strong concentration. Even though I own several phins for making Vietnamese iced coffee, I still use a french press.