It is the final week of Vegan MoFo! Just like last Wednesday, this is another feature celebrating the Vegan Month of Food, and this week, the theme is travel. It was certainly difficult to nail down exactly what to explore with this recipe – should we travel to the Mediterranean with a delicious mezzo platter, piled high with hummus and dolmas? Should we go farther east, deep frying some golden samosas stuffed with creamy potatoes and peas?
To be honest, I haven’t had the opportunity to visit these beautiful corners of the Earth and taste these dishes from the source. Even though I got the chance to visit Mexico and Scotland on school-related excursions, there aren’t a lot of places I have been abroad. I have lived my whole life in the Pacific Northwest, and there are still dozens of states in the U.S. I’ve never stepped foot in. My husband has similar travel experience, so when it was time to take our honeymoon this past spring, we decided to take a major leap outside of our comfort zone.
Very soon after we got engaged last year, we were treating ourselves to a little take-out. As we so frequently do when ordering out, we settled on pho. It’s undoubtedly some of our favorite food. Bundles of chewy noodles simmering in that savory, comforting broth alongside fresh veggies and tofu are hard to beat. A cold, a hangover, a broken heart – all easily soothed with a steaming bowl of pho. It dawned on us – before even looking for a venue or picking a date – that we could travel to the real thing.
Vietnam it is!
Outside the window of our AirBnB – Giảng Võ, Ba Đình, Hà Nội.
A visit to the Ngoc Son Temple (Temple of the Jade Mountain) on Hoàn Kiếm Lake (Lake of the Restored Sword).
Food is truly what motivates either of us to travel much at all (and part of how I knew our partnership would last). We couldn’t wait to eat authentic pho for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. After all, it really is considered breakfast cuisine there. Specifically, we spent 10 days in Hanoi. Vietnam has three very distinct regions: North, Central, and South. These regions all differ in their popular foods and ways of preparing pho. Ultimately, we decided on Hanoi because it seemed like the best fit for our style – city life, residential enclaves, and a quick jump to beautiful natural sites.
It was a little difficult at first to find vegetarian food, let alone vegan meals; not for lack of availability – after all, there are no shortage of fruits and vegetables in the street markets of Hanoi. I found plenty of options for restaurants serving veggie fare in local listings. We just had to acclimate to the business schedule of the city’s vendors, which seem to include afternoon breaks and assorted days off. It also didn’t help that all the phrases and Duolingo I’d tried to learn to help us get around was useless in my American tongue and poor accent pronunciation. Fortunately, the locals were extremely patient, and almost everyone had a smart phone which we could use to Google Translate back and forth. For the most part, I learned to say “chay?” (Vietnamese for vegetarian) to servers and hope for some guidance.
Food tourism: drinks & eats from T+ Beer Club (left) and Minh Chay (two right)
Although we obviously tried our fair share of pho, this post doesn’t culminate into another recipe for one. I have already posted my bastardized (but delicious, quick, and tasty!) version of zoodle pho. This week’s theme challenged me to recreate something we ordered almost every day we were in Hanoi and I’ve missed ever since.
On our second full day in the city, we went to a coffee shop a block away from our Air BnB called Cộng Cà Phê. Vietnam is known for an assortment of espresso delicacies beyond what we know as Vietnamese Iced Coffee. There are endless coffee establishments, but Cộng Cà Phê seems to be a little bit like their Starbucks. They have 32 locations in Hanoi alone and more all over the country. Besides the relaxing atmosphere and its convenient proximity to our quarters, there is one creation in particular that got us coming and spending our dong almost daily. So much so, the kind servers at our location would see us sit down and not bother to ask what we wanted. Two cốt dừa cà phê, please! Cảm ơn!
To me, this was essentially a coconut affogatto. A full glass of creamy blended coconut, not too sweet with a very natural tropical finish, topped with espresso. Served with both a spoon and a straw, I would eat the coconut cream like a parfait until the espresso and the milk melted down into a fantastic iced coconut latte. No one should count calories on vacation. It was the ultimate breakfast.
I’ve never seen anything like it since I’ve been back in Seattle. While this creation isn’t exactly the same, and I will gladly spend my days trying to replicate it, it’s an extremely tasty placeholder. Just a few simple ingredients and a high speed blender will demand that your normal lattes and smoothies step up their game.
COCONUT COFFEE FREEZE
makes 2 small or 1 large serving(s)
1 1/2 c coconut water, frozen in an ice cube tray
1/4 – 1/2 c coconut cream, room temperature (alternatively, a can of full-fat coconut milk chilled in the fridge overnight) + extra “milk” from the can as needed
1 T agave nectar (optional, if you like things a little sweeter)
1/2 c strong brewed coffee, room temperature or 2 – 4 shots of espresso
1. Make sure your coconut cream or full-fat coconut milk is the right consistency. Hopefully at room temperature, your coconut cream will be quite thick but still somewhat liquid, like whipped cream. In colder temperatures, it may be solid at room temperature, as will the chilled cream that will rise to the top of your can of coconut milk in the fridge. If solid, scoop out just the cream (even in the can of coconut cream, there will be some “milk” separated at the bottom) into a bowl. You will be able to whip up the cream with a fork, mixing in a little milk at a time, until it is more pour-able. Set the leftover milk aside.
2. Unmold all of your coconut water ice into a high-speed blender. Add 1/4 c of the coconut cream (and agave, if using). Turn on the blender medium-low at first, using a tamper to coax the mixture to blend. If you don’t have a tamper, you may have to alternate between blending and using a spatula to scrape down the sides.
3. Slowly bring up the speed to medium. If the mixture needs more liquid, start with another 1/4 c of the cream, then add a couple tablespoons of the leftover milk at a time until it starts to come together. Be careful not to blend too much or add too much liquid; the friction and liquid will cause the consistency to be more smoothie than freeze.
4. Once you’ve reached a somewhat smooth but mostly frozen consistency, scoop the mixture out into a pint glass. Top with coffee or espresso, stir slightly, and enjoy!
5. If you don’t have a high speed blender or end up with a coconut cream smoothie, no fear! Add enough cream and milk to blend and this will still make a delicious iced coconut latte guaranteed to satisfy on these record-high, climate crisis-induced summer months.