Of course I have more current things going on to share with you other than the food adventure of a lifetime that I’ve raved on and on about, but this morning I was having a hard time motivating myself to start the week (I know it sounds crazy, but my life of leisure can be exhausting). I couldn’t shake the feeling that if I just had a delicious, rich cup of Vietnamese cafe sua da from our favorite little coffee shop in Saigon and an accompanying short glass of jasmine iced tea, I’d be up and at ’em as usual.
We almost literally stumbled upon a mass of cafe patrons on the sidewalk in front of Cafe Truong Dinh, near Ben Thanh Market (the main market in District 1), one morning as we were searching for a good cup of Vietnamese joe. Customers for the cafe packed the sidewalk on both sides of the street, and so after locating a little patch of concrete to call our own, we unfolded one of the tiny 18-inch tall tables leaning against a wall. A waitress breezed by with a stack of blue plastic stools for us to sit on, and we obliged.
On our first visit (yes, we went twice in two days), most of us had the cafe sua da, which is iced Vietnamese coffee served with condensed milk. The beverage is traditionally served with a side of weakly brewed iced jasmine tea on the side, which totally threw us for a loop at first. Caffeine served with a side of … more caffeine? What’s up with that? Our friend Joe speculated that the tea was served in lieu of a glass of water back in the day because generally tap water wasn’t safe to drink in Vietnam. With a glass of iced tea, a customer would be able tell that the beverage was safe to drink, since tea has to be brewed. I did some research, but I wasn’t able to verify that theory or really find out anything more, so until someone tells me otherwise, I’m going with Joe.
Regardless of why we scored a two-fer-one kind of deal, both beverages were outstanding. The cafe sua da had a satisfyingly rich coffee flavor, accentuated by the sweetness of the condensed milk. The jasmine tea, on the other hand, was the perfect counterbalance to the intense flavors in the cafe sua da — it was light, refreshing, and earthy. Best of all, the tea kept coming, long after we’d finished our coffees, which made lingering at the cafe almost irresistible. Afterwards, I felt rejuvenated and ready to take on the organized chaos of Saigon. Even just telling you about it now, I feel refreshed. How does that happen?
How’s your Monday shaping up?
Cafe Truong Dinh | 29 Ly Tu Trong, Ben Thanh Market, District 1 | Phone: 822-8763 | Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam