When I first arrived in Cambodia in 2004, one of the first things that I tried was kahfe tako tukdaohko, or iced coffee with milk. My Cambodian friend and I had it at a roadside stall (immediately raising my hygiene red flag, which I ignored because, hey! I was feeling adventurous, and thirsty too) and for half a dollar (20+ pesos) I got a tall glass of brewed strong coffee mixed with crushed ice. A long teaspoon and a straw stood in the glass. The teaspoon was for mixing in the inch-thick layer of condensed milk that lay at the bottom of the glass. My first sip? Heavenly. Through all my years in Cambodia, this has been my go-to drink whenever I am parched, or just wanting to be refreshed. What I love about it is that no matter where I have it, be it at a market stall or a posh restaurant, the taste is consistently good. I’ve tried iced coffee with milk from Thailand and Vietnam but they don’t compare with the Cambodian type.
When I settled back in Manila, I tried so hard to replicate this drink using local coffee but it’s not the same.
So when I returned to Phnom Penh a few months back, this drink was at the top of my list of things to experience again. And it didn’t fail me. Once again, it didn’t matter where I had it–in the city or in the provinces where I did my field work, at a roadside stall, a coffee shop or a hotel even, it was as great as I remembered it to me. Few things have changed–the price for one thing but all is good because it was really lovely.
Upon my return to Manila, I brought a few kilos of Cambodian coffee with me but I haven’t attempted to replicate it here.
For now, memories of it are enough to keep me happy.