It's time to diversify.
My narrow-minded automatic pilot order of a cafe den da (iced black coffee) does serve my rather selfish purpose, giving me a jolt of the tingles, setting me up for a productive couple of hours, whatever I may be doing. But there are so many more options in Hanoi's caffeine dens, not all of them containing the world's most common performance-enhancing drug.
However, I'm not going to upset my own applecart completely. There is no way I'm going to forego my black liquid medication.
That'd be nuts!
In an attempt to widen the scope of my cafe experiences in Hanoi, though, I will promise to occasionally follow my coffee with a second beverage. I will wet my whistle with other fluids, mostly unfamiliar ones. It might be fun. It could be informative. It may challenge my very existence. These drinks could indeed react with the coffee, setting off a curdling centrifuge around and around the lining of my stomach!
Nevertheless, let me start. Chanh muoi literally translates as lemon salt, though in Vietnam wherever you see lemon, read lime. On a drinks menu, it means salty lemonade.
Limes are pickled in a preserving process not dissimilar to that in Middle Eastern cuisine. Packed into jars with salt and left until a briney liquid covers them, the whole limes lose their lush green colour but gain an intensely lemony flavour. Of course this process occurs long before I place my order.
At the cafe, a lime is popped into a glass along with a slug of brine and sometimes sugar. The lemony flavour is released by stabbing at the lime with a spoon until it is suitably mangled and messy. The final step involves filling the glass with water and lots of ice.
I dig the lemon. I don't dig the salt, which makes the drink strangely syrupy, as if some chemistry experiment has occurred in the glass. Cold and salty in a drink does not float my boat, I'm afraid.