My google search history in the Autumn of 2022; ‘Salt Coffee Hanoi’. Results? One. Well, one that paid any dividends anyway.
|TREND SETTERS: Sweet and Salty: cà phê muối stalls are popping up all over town. Photo Alex Reeves|
By Alex Reeves – @afreeves23
My google search history in the Autumn of 2022; ‘Salt Coffee Hanoi’. Results? One. Well, one that paid any dividends anyway. Having visited Hoi An, tried and enjoyed the bizarre combination of Vietnam’s signature sweet and strong cà phê sữa (coffee with condensed milk) covered with a salty cream mixture first layered on top and sliding down the edges of my morning beverage, I was hooked.
Hooked enough to use google, a host of apps and social media groups in the hope of seeing this delightful drink appear on the capital city’s radar. One cafe appeared on a well known app yet failed to deliver anything resembling the sweet and salty combination that underlined my summer trips to our quaint central comrades.
Fast forward to the summer of 2023 and you can barely drive down the street without seeing stalls offering up this tasty treat, mixed freshly in front of you. Every cafe in town is in on the action and not one’s to be left behind, this is now front and centre on the Circle-K advertising board.
I still maintain that the quality has yet to reach the heights of my summer staple, but it’s a damn sight better. I wonder if the people of Hue where this concoction is purported to originate from feel this when they visit Danang and Hoi An? As the age old question goes “Is anything original anymore?”.
|Alex Reeves – @afreeves23|
Recently there was queues of up to a hundred people, keen as mustard, to get their hands on ‘bánh đồng xu phô mai’ the sweet, cheesy and Instagram friendly Korean waffle which I initially dismissed as a social media fad, a trend soon to be forgotten, destined to disappear into the collective consciousness of a city always pining for something new.
This morning there was a new stall selling this gooey goodness on my street. Be it Korean, from another part of our wonderful country or anywhere else for that matter, we can’t underestimate the power of trends. While few things may actually be original anymore, it doesn’t mean they’re necessarily bad or can’t be assimilated into the cultural offerings a city provides.
Everything has a history, it’s enjoyed, debated, deliberated upon, experimented with and improved. Many of our finest dishes have their own controversial and intriguing origin stories. Ramen? Phở? Pizza? I warn even the proudest aficionados to research at their peril.
The lesson here is to enjoy things in their infancy, purest forms and the creative contributions that then come forth. For these are our legacies; past, present and future. The innate human balance of purism and ingenuity ensures the age of choice continues to grow while our holiest methods are retained.
So take a leaf from my book this week, grab a cà phê muối, a bánh đồng xu phô mai and cast your cynicism aside. Enjoy the new order, appreciate the entrepreneurship and embrace the changing of the seasons. In a country that consistently gives back more than what we put into it, this is something to be celebrated.