39 Nguyen Huu Huan Street , Hoan Kiem - Hanoi
I first heard about coffee when I was planning my trip to Vietnam. The story goes that during a milk shortage of World War II, an enterprising bartender substituted a brew containing egg yolk, butter, and cheese for milk, giving birth to a culinary legend. Intrigued, I knew I had to taste it for myself. Although there are multitudes of imitators, I preferred to visit the original cafe, Cafe Giang, which operates in the Old Quarter of Hanoi, making egg coffee from the same highly-guarded secret recipe.
Because it is a popular destination, I made sure to visit early in the morning and was rewarded with sharing the cosy cafe with few customers. As is typical of true Vietnamese cafes and eateries, the tables and chairs are small - the size you would typically associate with a preschool. Vietnam has a huge coffee culture and at all times of the day, you will find the Vietnamese gathering around small tables like these all over the city, having a cup of coffee.
Egg coffee, once I finally tasted it, absolutely lived up to the hype. It comes in a small espresso cup cradled in a bowl of hot water to keep it the right temperature as you sip it. The top is a thick, rich layer of the marvelous egg yolk concoction - no doubt whipped and blended until it resembled the creamiest cream; and below is strong Vietnamese filter coffee. By itself, the egg cream is sweet and decadent - almost like a chantilly cream. Mixed with the coffee, you have a drink resembling a French cafe viennoise, espresso with whipped cream. It's a dessert and coffee all in one and should not be rushed, but slowly savored.