Eggs and Vincent don’t go together. Anyone who knows him will know that he ‘isn’t a fan’ of the humble egg. In cakes, it’s fine. He can just about tolerate it in a fried rice or a Pad Thai, but he would prefer that it wasn’t in there in the first place. But an egg on its own? An omelette? Fried egg? Poached eggs? Egg and toast soldiers? No siree, he would rather just pass, thank you very much. You can keep what came out of a chicken’s bum. He will just have something else.
So when I proposed that we try out a number of egg coffee joints in Hanoi, you can imagine his reaction. “Egg in coffee? Why would you ruin a perfectly normal and delicious coffee?!” Because it sounds weird and delicious to me, dear Vincent, and I want to selfishly bring you along on my eggy coffee adventures. (We’ve been in a similar situation before by the way, when I said I wanted to try sushi in Japan - he doesn’t eat fish. And we still ended up going).
With just the right amount of cajoling and maximum use of my ‘sad cat-in-Shrek’ eyes, he agreed, saying “I’m just having regular Vietnamese coffee. You can keep your egg nonsense.” Alrighty then! We are on!
What Is Egg Coffee?
Legend has it that Cà Phê Trứng or egg coffee was first created in 1946 and was the brainchild of one Nguyen Van Giang, a bartender at the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hotel in Hanoi. The First Indochina War had resulted in milk becoming expensive and scarce and so Giang created a recipe using whisked egg yolk that mimicked the creaminess of milk. This war-time creation became such a hit with customers that Giang eventually opened Cafe Giang, where his son Nguyen Van Dao still serves the famous concoction.
If you’re picturing an egg floating at the top of your morning coffee right now (I agree that this is yucks), you couldn’t be more wrong. Vietnamese egg coffee is halfway between being a decadent drink and a dessert. Cafe Giang’s recipe contains butter, cheese (yes, you are reading this correctly), coffee powder, condensed milk, sugar and of course whisked egg, all mixed together to make a creamy, rich, sweet and foamy drink. Imagine - this is before bulletproof coffee was even a thing! The exact recipe is still top secret and even though a number of other cafes in Hanoi have attempted to imitate the original drink, the popularity and crowds at Cafe Giang are a testament to the fact that there is really only one place to try Hanoi’s signature beverage.
Where Can I Try It?
Sasha and Vincent’s egg coffee adventures had to start off in the birthplace of egg coffee - Cafe Giang. Down an easy-to-miss narrow alleyway in Hanoi’s Old Quarter, tourists and locals alike queue up and take a seat at tiny wooden tables to sample the original Cà Phê Trứng.
The menu at the cafe is extensive, with more varieties of egg coffee going on than you can shake a stick at. In addition to pure unadulterated egg coffee, you can have egg coffee with cinnamon, matcha, Coke or even mung bean (I wasn’t adventurous enough to try that last one). And if speedballing is your thing, there’s even egg coffee with rum or beer!
I opted for the hot egg coffee with cinnamon (most of the options can be served cold as well), reasoning that if I didn’t like it, the cinnamon would hopefully drown out any ‘eggy’ taste. Was Vincent going to try it? His face said no.
So what was it like? Well firstly, not eggy at all. The whisked layer of egg on top was quite thick, but had a much lighter texture than whipped cream. I needed to use a small spoon to taste it as it was too thick to drink. It tasted almost like vanilla and although sweet, wasn’t too cloying. A lot of people say that drinking egg coffee is like drinking liquid tiramisu and I would say that this is spot on - it definitely falls more into the dessert thank drink category.
After a few spoonfuls of the rich, thick layer, I stirred the remainder into the strong coffee at the bottom of my glass and enjoyed one of the most decadent drinks I’ve ever had. (The cold egg coffee is supposed to taste even richer - apparently like drinking coffee ice cream!)
And then…I had to share.
For all his egg-hating ways, Vincent was curious about the coffee. And so, apprehensively, he took a sip.
And he liked it!
Hanoi Egg Coffee
One of the many copy-cat cafes that popped up after egg coffee became uber popular, Hanoi Egg Coffee can also be found in the city’s old quarter. There was a less extensive menu here, with only two variations on egg coffee, a chocolate and egg beverage and one egg beer. The cafe also serves spring rolls and a variety of banh mi sandwiches, so it’s a good place to get a cheap lunch.
This time, the cup of coffee was served in a saucer containing hot water to maintain its temperature. The whipped egg had a sweet, light, creamy taste similar to Cafe Giang’s, but I would say that it is not as thick or rich as the latter’s recipe. However, I’d still recommend it as a great place to get your egg coffee fix!
Have you tried egg coffee? Let us know in the comments below!