You have probably already heard about the famous Vietnamese Cà phê sữa đá which is basically a glass of strong dark coffee mixed with an equal amount of condensed sweetened milk and a generous amount of ice. For those of you who are after a less caffeine-charged way of drinking coffee, Vietnamese people have the alternative called Bạc Xỉu. A glass of a dark coffee mixed with condensed sweetened milk and a generous amount of ice. “Ups, but didn’t we just say the same thing about cà phê sữa đá“ Yes, here is the difference. While ingredients in both drinks are exactly the same, the proportions are very different. Bạc Xỉu is basically a glass of sweetened condensed milk mixed with ice and a tiny bit of coffee as opposed to cà phê sữa đá that comes served with a larger amount of dark coffee mixed with an equal amount of condensed milk and heaps of ice.
Where does Bạc Xỉu come from?
Bac Xiu is a Chinese expression used mostly by people living in Saigon. In its full length it goes like this: “Bạc Tảy Xỉu Phé” where Bạc means white/or silver, Tảy refers to an empty glass, Xỉu means “a little” and Phé stands for “coffee”. Put it all together and you get “a white glass with a little amount of coffee”.
A little bit of Bạc Xỉu history
Back in the days of French colonialism, the fresh milk was rather expensive and/or often unavailable beverage to drink. Mostly because of the hot climate but as well because of Vietnamese non-milk drinking culture. Hence those Vietnamese (or French) who wanted to enjoy milk drinking had to reach for a more affordable and easier to buy condensed milk. Most Vietnamese didn’t like the taste of condensed milk mixed with hot water and therefore they started mixing in a tiny bit of coffee to make the drink more pleasant to drink. Bạc Xỉu was born.
Who drinks Bạc Xỉu?
According to many Saigoneers, Bac Xiu is for children only. It’s a what small boys or girls drink when taken out to coffee shops by their daddies. Bax Xiu is also popular among women who don’t like a bitter flavour of dark coffee yet can’t resist a seductiveness of coffee.
To recap, there are three uniquely Vietnamese ways of drinking coffee:
- Cà phê đen đá – Vietnamese Black Coffee
- Cà phê sữa đá – Vietnamese Iced Coffee with Sweetened Condensed Milk
- Bạc Xỉu – Vietnamese Condensed Milk Coffee