Our best memory of Malaysia is from our second to the last day of the trip. After touring Penang’s Tropical Spice Garden, we decided to splurge with a meal at Tree Monkey, a Thai fusion restaurant located inside the garden. After feasting on green curry, stuffed crabs, and Tom Kha Kai, we ordered dessert and spiced coffee. At first taste, the coffee’s intense cardamom flavor both pleased and surprised me. I had expected a hint of the spice, as it can quickly take on a medicinal flavor with just an extra pod, but the presence of star anise curbed any bitterness well. We sipped our coffees and enjoyed our dessert among the treetops.
As Malaysian food is primarily a fusion of Indian, Thai, and other Southeast Asian influences (with very few dishes actually considered to be pure Malay), it feels right to conclude this progressive dinner with my attempt to replicate the spiced coffee we enjoyed at the end of our favorite meal in Malaysia. Thai coffee is customarily served with sweetened condensed milk, a delicious treat to enjoy on holiday, but at home I make it with almond milk and a heaping teaspoon of honey.
Ingredients (serves 2)
Tip: For the best coffee experience, use beans that have been roasted no more than five days prior, and freshly grind them at home. For more information on coffee flavor and longevity, read my post on cold brew coffee.
2 large coffee mugs of water
2 tablespoons freshly ground coffee
1 large cinnamon stick, halved
4-5 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
1 star anise (or two if you’re partial to the licorice flavor)
1/2 cup homemade almond milk
2-4 teaspoons honey
Bring the water to a rolling boil in a small pot on the stove top. Turn the heat off, and stir in the coffee and spices. Let it brew at least three minutes, and up to five for a stronger brew. While the coffee is brewing, gently bring the almond milk to a simmer in a little pot on the stove. Add the honey to the almond milk and take it off the heat right before the coffee finishes brewing. When the brew-time is up, pour the coffee through a fine mesh sieve and into the mugs. Add the sweetened almond milk to each mug, and garnish them with the brewed cinnamon stick halves.