A New Home on the Gulf Coast More than 130,000 South Vietnamese refugees arrived in America in 1975 after the Fall of Saigon and the end of the Vietnam War. About 15 percent — 20,000 people — found a new home on the Gulf Coast, many with help from Catholic Charities and area churches. Many Vietnamese families made their way to fishing communities like Bayou La Batre, Alabama, Empire and Grand Isle, Louisiana, and suburban areas of New Orleans, including Gretna and Avondale on the West Bank and New Orleans East. They quickly became entrenched in their new communities. Coffee was first introduced to Vietnam by French colonists in the 1880s. Today Vietnam is the world’s largest grower and exporter of robusta coffee beans. Vietnamese robusta coffee is dark and intense, with a bitter edge due to its higher caffeine content. Chicory coffee has a similar flavor profile, and brands like Café Du Monde, which is a mixture of chicory, robusta and sweeter Arabica beans, offered the new immigrants a taste of home. Because sourcing authentic Vietnamese coffee was so difficult, chicory coffee quickly became the go-to replacement, then the coffee of choice. Today Vietnamese restaurants in America and all over the world get their ground coffee from local companies like Café Du Monde. Deliciously Sweet Vietnamese coffee is drunk cold or hot and sweetened with condensed milk — a practice that dates back to the French colonists. Because milk was scarce at the time, the colonists sweetened their robusta coffee with the more readily available canned condensed milk. At Tan Dinh in Gretna, one of the New Orleans West Bank’s most popular Vietnamese restaurants, owner Ngat “Maria” Vu uses a mixture of Café Du Monde and Trung Nguyen, a Vietnamese robusta grind. She prepares our coffee tableside. The grinds are filtered slowly through a single-serve, stainless-steel Vietnamese coffee filter into a cup containing condensed milk. This slow press process, which is similar to that of a French press, extracts sugar
— or just a case of the Mondays — than a steaming bowl of pho, and the pho at Dang’s is some of the best in Baton Rouge. It’s complex and doesn’t need much hoisin sauce to bring out its rich flavor. Dang’s uses a dark-roasted Vietnamese brand of coffee rather than the more typical Louisiana coffee and chicory. But like all Vietnamese blends, their hot and iced coffees are deliciously sweet from the condensed milk. In its long and storied culinary history, the Gulf Coast has been blessed with offerings from a variety of cultures. It’s really not surprising that some — like the Vietnamese and New Orleans coffee styles — have overlapped to create even more tempting delights for our palates, and palates around the world.
from the chicory and flavor from the coffee. The brew is stirred gently, then poured over ice while still hot for a classic café sua da , or “coffee, milk, ice.” This ritual is repeated at Dong Phuong in New Orleans East, where a meal of cha gio (egg rolls) and grilled pork Bánh Mì (a Vietnamese po-boy) is followed by hot or cold French-dripped chicory coffee sweetened with condensed milk. The ca phe sua is equally popular at Pho Tau Bay, a favorite of chefs Emeril Lagasse and John Besh. The Takacs, owners of the popular venue, recently relocated their restaurant from the Westbank Expressway in Gretna to Tulane Avenue in New Orleans. There are exceptions to every rule, of course, and one is Dang’s in Baton Rouge, which is located in the Florida Boulevard strip mall anchored by Vinh Phat Oriental Market. There’s no better cure for the rainy day blues
Coffee and Chicory Most coffee and chicory brands originated in New Orleans, including Café Du Monde. One of the city’s major coffee purveyors, William B. Reily, got his start with a wholesale grocery business in Monroe, Louisiana. Reily moved to New Orleans in 1902, where he founded the Luzianne brand. Reily Foods owns Luzianne, CDM, French Market and Union, which are all produced in New Orleans. Folger’s Coffee, a national brand, is also produced in New Orleans, as well as PJ’s brands and local micro-roast French Truck.
New Orleans born coffee chain PJ’s opened locations in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam in 2016.
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