You Can’t Buy Happiness… But You Can Buy Vietnamese Coffee

(verb.) to delay or postpone action; put off doing something until you’ve had coffee.

As a third-year university student, I think that it is fair to say that coffee is my best friend. In saying that though, my love affair with coffee did not fully begin until I travelled to Vietnam in late 2016. I had experimented with caffeine early in the year as part of am attempt to demonstrate my transition into official adulthood, but had conceded defeat after I realised that drinking coffee was like drinking burnt charcoal. Nevertheless, it was impossible to travel around Vietnam – one of the coffee hotspots of the world – without trying the stuff.

Whilst coffee was only introduced to Vietnam in 1857 by the French, it has become one of the country’s biggest exports. In fact, Vietnam is the second-largest producer of coffee in the world! Didn’t expect that from a wee nation tucked away in Southeast Asia, did you? If you’re interested in learning more about how Vietnam transformed into one of the globe’s leading coffee giants, you might be inclined to check out this BBC article.

Vietnamese coffee is prepared by coarsely grinding Robusta beans through a French drip filter known as a phin. While the beans are weighted down, hot water is added and slowly trickles down through the phin into the cup. Voila! It’s as simple as that.

Whilst I do not consider myself a caffeine expert by any means, I do enjoy a bit of good old fashioned research, and the consensus is clear: Vietnamese coffee is some of the best coffee in the world. What makes Vietnamese coffee — or ca phe, as it is called — so iconic is its incorporation of sweetened condensed milk. Think think and dreamy with “notes of nuttiness” to throw your tastebuds into a stimulated frenzy. I’m not going to lie; condensed milk certainly provides a helpful hand for developing an appreciation for coffee for those who are put off by the traditional bitter taste. This is especially convenient in this case, as the Vietnamese like their coffee strong.

One of the reasons I decided to visit Vietnam — or Southeast Asia in general — was the low cost of travel there. Consistent with this, you will not find yourself emptying your pockets to purchase a cup of joe. Depending on the quality of the Robusta beans and the overall price of the venue, you’ll probably find yourself forking out between 20,000 – 70,000 Vietnamese dong for a glass. This roughly approximates to NZD$1.25 – $4.40 (or USD$0.90 – $3.00).

How to Make Vietnamese-Style Iced Coffee

Ingredients

22g of finely ground medium-dark coffee

140ml of hot water

30ml of sweetened condensed milk

100g of ice (crushed or cubed)

Method

1. Pour the condensed milk into a glass to line the base of the cup

2. Load a stainless steel phin with the coffee grounds

3. Place the coffee-laden phin on top of the glass

4. Wet the coffee in the filter with 20 ml of hot water

5. Pour another 120ml of hot water over the coffee grounds

6. Wait approximately 8-10 minutes until all of the water has drained through

5. Mix the coffee with condensed milk and enjoy!

Which country do you think produces the best coffee? Share your thoughts, and I’ll be sure to put it up to the taste test when I travel there! Furthermore, if you are intrigued by the different foods and drinks cultures have to offer, you might want to check out my blog post on 5 Foods That Will Make You Go WTF (and 5 Foods That Won’t) 👌

All photos sourced from unplash.com

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5 Foods That Will Make You Go WTF (and 5 Foods That Wont)

Oh, Thailand.

One of the highlights of traveling to a faraway and exotic country is having the opportunity to try weird and wonderful foods. In France, that may be escargots. In South America, that may be roast guinea pig. In Thailand… well, let’s just say you’ve come to the right place to find out.

1

Insects

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Traveling to Southeast Asia as a vegetarian, the last thing I expected myself to do was eat a bug. But, as it would stand, I am not very good at being vegetarian.

Feeling a little bit like a contestant off Fear Factor, I decided to expand my palate on the very first night of the trip by having a nibble of a grasshopper. In Thailand, insects are fried in a wok, seasoned with chilli, salt and pepper, and enjoyed as snacks. Whilst I cast my doubts on the Thai people’s relationship with the word ‘enjoyed’, I will admit that it wasn’t the absolute worst thing I have ever eaten. Did it taste like bitter, burnt popcorn? Maybe. Did it require me to run to the kitchen and spit out the remnants immediately afterwards? Maybe. But rest assured, it looks more gross than it actually is.

2

Fried Chicken Heads

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When I passed these at the market, I actually had to do a double take. I’d heard of chicken feet being a delicacy, but chicken heads? I felt a little sick just looking at them.

Whilst our tour guide informed us that these are mostly used for the purposes of pet food, that doesn’t stop people (including a few questionably brave tourists) from indulging themselves. Apparently (because, y’know, there was no way I was trying these in a hurry) they consist almost entirely of bones and gristle with a little bit of fat in the neck. If these little guys whet your appetite, don’t forget to crack the head so that you don’t miss out on the “unique buttery flavour” of the brain.

I think I’ll pass.

3

Whole Fish

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Arguably this isn’t as crazy as the other foods listed, but hailing from somewhere like New Zealand, it’s still a shock to see an entire fish for sale – head and all – as opposed to cuts of meat.

What really took me aback was the price. One of these fish were worth 30 baht (the Thai currency) which is roughly equivalent to USD$0.80!

4

Fried Worms

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Poppy enjoying her fried worms.

Mmm.

Fried bamboo worms are a Thai treat that you will most likely find in the North.

My friend Poppy and I brought a small bag of ‘lesser’ worms (because apparently you have high and low quality fried worms… who would’ve known?), and I plucked up the courage to try one.

In all honesty, I preferred the grasshopper. These little rascals tasted like gravel with a vaguely peanut-esque aftertaste. “Just like popcorn!” our guide grinned.

Yeah right.

5

Whole Fish 2.0

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If you thought I was done with the fish, then you were wrong.

I have no idea what kind of fish this was, but I’m sure it was an ugly mother******. This entire fish – teeth and all – was placed on the table in front of us, complete with chopsticks and dipping sauce. Had I not been vegetarian, I don’t think I could have even eaten anything, what with it staring back at you. If you fancy watching Poppy’s ethical dilemma, check out our travel vlog.

1

Ice Cream

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The first thing I decided when I arrived in Thailand was that I would have put on 5kg worth of dessert by the time I returned home. How can you not when you’re constantly walking past places like this?!

Aside from the miscellany of ice cream flavours, the toppings alone are to die for. Toasted marshmallow? Buttered popcorn? Oreo crush? Froot loops? You name it – they’ve got it.

2

Street Food

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You cannot travel to Thailand and not try the street food. Aside from the fact that it’s so insanely cheap, it also tastes infinitely better than anything you would ever buy out of a package. Plus, you’ll find yourself eyeing up foods you never even knew existed.

Durian? I have no idea what that is, but I’ll take three.

3

Watermelon Juice

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You got me; this isn’t a photo of watermelon juice. But it is a photo of fresh watermelon (and some sneaky papayas) at a local Thai market, which I think we can all agree is far more photogenic than juice in a cup.

Watermelon is one of my favourite fruits, and the only thing better than fruit is liquid fruit. The beauty of watermelon juice in Thailand is that – like everything – it is so much cheaper than the same product would cost back home (or even in neighbouring countries, for that matter). An average watermelon juice in Thailand might cost around USD$0.60. To put that into perspective, when I ordered one during my stopover in Singapore on the way home, I was charged USD$5.60. Case in point.

4

Gelato

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I tend to think of Italy when I think of gelato, but that doesn’t mean the Thai don’t know how to do their frozen desserts.

I became obsessed with matcha green tea gelato during my stay. The taste is ultra refreshing and perfect for a snack on the go during a hot, sticky day tour in the sun. One of those crispy waffle cones don’t go amiss, either.

5

Dragonfruit

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I think the name of this fruit alone is enough to warrant a mention.

If you don’t think you’re familiar with these, then you might be able to jog your memory by scrolling through any Instagram tag along the lines of #smoothiebowl or #nalubowl. Dragonfruit are white on the inside with distinctive black seeds dotted throughout them. They taste somewhat like a less tangy kiwifruit, and are popular for their gorgeous colours.

What weird and wonderful foods have you encountered on your overseas travels? Comment below – I’d love to hear about your experience!

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Starfish Café: Your Sunday Morning Fix

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Could this possibly be the best café in Dunedin?

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Having lived in this city in southern New Zealand my whole life, I think it is fair to say that I have done the café rounds. Coming from a family with a passion for food (and being a high-functioning teaholic), it is hard pressed for me to find a café here that I have not dined at.

And so we arrive at the Starfish, the eclectic seaside café on the St. Clair esplanade.

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It’s hard to define Starfish, but maybe that’s the beauty of it. From the electric swing playing over the speakers to the David Bowie posters pouting down at you from the wall, from the vintage swan wallpaper to the Pacific Ocean right outside the front door… and I haven’t even gotten to the food yet. Think coconut turmeric lattes as you sit outside and enjoy the sun on a lazy Sunday morning. Think a glass of wine as you wind down to an acoustic set on a Friday evening. Think fresh seafood sourced straight from the Otago harbour. Mouth watering yet?

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I think the best thing about Starfish is that every time I go there (and believe me, it’s an embarrassing amount), it’s a whole new experience. I never tire of the ever-changing menu, and there is such a huge array of options to choose from and I don’t think I could ever sample everything. For all you social media enthusiasts (*raises a guilty hand*), do not fret; everything at Starfish is Insta-worthy. And for all you difficult dietary chums (*raises another guilty hand*), they’ve got you covered. Dairy free? Gluten free? Vegetarian? Look no further.

If there is one place you should go to experience the essence of Dunedin’s café culture on your travels, Starfish is the one. Perhaps one of the only stale points is that it is not within walking distance of the town centre, limiting it to those with access. However, if an outing to St. Clair is not already on your to do list, then I honestly don’t know what you’re doing here. Nestled in a plethora of boutique shops and restaurants – not to mention the most photogenic beach in New Zealand (am I biased? …probably), just one visit will be enough to convince you to ditch your return ticket home. Just make sure you’ve packet a scarf and gloves in your suitcase. Brr.

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My Starfish Breakfast Order

  • Pics Poles Smoothie
  • Blueberry, Coconut & Lemon Hotcakes
  • Citrus Slice

(note to self: don’t complain when you no longer fit your jeans)

Also, a handy tip; if you’re eyeing up one of their famous smoothies (I recommend the Pics Poles; possibly the best peanut butter creation to ever grace the earth), make sure you get in there before 3pm or else the blender gets put away for the day. Believe me, I’ve made this mistake many times; tears were shed.

The ‘Deats

Starfish Café, Restaurant & Bar

240 Forbury Road, St. Clair, Dunedin, New Zealand

Sunday-Tuesday 7am-5pm

Wednesday-Saturday 7am til late

03 455 5940

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