Delicious Vietnam #11
It was a cold winter day with typical Hanoi weather. Light rain, and with the icy chilliness that went deep to the bones. I took Mr. B. to my favourite ice-cream shop in Hanoi. Second favourite to be fair. The top one was at Tràng Tiền street, which sold the best mung-bean flavor ice-cream. But that day, I wanted to show mr. B kem xôi – basically coconut ice-cream served with tiny bit of pandan flavoured sticky rice and toasted coconut pieces. It was cold, but I enjoyed such a sweet treat wholeheartedly.
Truthfully the kem xôi I ate that day wasn’t as good as I had remembered. The ice-cream was made of cheaper ingredients, and didn’t have that creamy texture of a good ice-cream. The sticky rice part was, thankfully, really well-done. Sticky rice could be really dry but this shop had mastered how to cook it perfectly. The grain was al dante. My favourite bit of kem xôi was the toasted coconut pieces, which have wonderful nutty and coconut flavor and aroma. I always believe that such addition was the key to make kem xôi special. It was the link to bind the ice-cream together with the sticky rice component of the dish. (And, who can disagree that pandan and coconut are borne for each other?)
So, kem xôi has been my craving ever since. Even though my childhood treat isn’t the tastiest ice-cream I have tried, the toasted coconut flavours never lose its appeal on me. I have always wanted to try to make coconuc ice-cream. No, not the recipe with loads of coconut milk/cream, but something else. An ice-cream recipe which gives me that toasted coconut flavor.
I guess I have Tony Tan to thanks for (thank you!). It is his coconut ice-cream recipe which helps to satisfy my craving. The recipe is perfect, although I did double the amount of toasted coconut to really define the flavours. Of course, I made pandan sticky rice to pair with the ice-cream. And more toasted coconut! Kem xôi, just like the old days, only better!
The ice-cream part is adapted from a recipe by Tony Tan, appeared in Gourmet Traveller.
The sticky rice
100g sticky rice (the normal kind) – soaked in cold water overnight
A pinch of salt
50g castor sugar
½ tsp pandan paste (if you have fresh pandan leaves, this will be better)
100 g desiccated coconut (plus more, to serve)
300 ml pouring cream
300 ml milk
100 gm dark brown sugar
6 egg yolks
Extra: toasted desiccated coconut to serve
For coconut ice-cream, toast the coconut in a frying pan over low heat, stirring occasionally, until golden (4-5 minutes). Transfer to a saucepan, add cream, milk and palm sugar, then bring to the simmer over low heat. Simmer for 1 minute, remove from heat, cover and stand for 10 minutes to infuse. Meanwhile, whisk yolks in a heatproof bowl to combine, then add cream mixture, whisking continuously to combine. Return to pan and stir continuously until mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon thickly (5-6 minutes). Strain through a fine sieve into a bowl placed over ice, pressing solids to extract all liquid (discard solids), cool completely in the fridge overnight. Freeze in an ice-cream machine according to manufacturer’s instructions and freeze until required. Makes about 1 litre.
For the sticky rice part, drain the rice and put in a microwave safe bowl. Add in the pandan paste, a pinch of salt and just enough water to barely cover the surface of the rice. Stir to combine. Cover with cling wrap. Cook in the microwave for 5-10 minutes or until the rice is cooked. (The cooking time depends on your microwave. Stir in between and taste – don’t overcook the rice). Alternatively, steam the sticky rice with a steamer. Once it is cooked, stir in the sugar and cool completely.
To serve: one part sticky-rice, one-two parts ice-cream and top with lots of toasted desiccated coconut!