Say, purely hypothetically, you have eight cans of sweetened condensed milk left in the office and enough Vietnamese coffee to power all-nighters for the next few days. You could, I suppose, make some Vietnamese drip coffee every day and keep your caffeine and canned dairy intake at reasonable levels. But that sounds so boring in comparison to Vietnamese coffee ice cream, which is my favorite coffee ice cream variant and one of my favorite ways to take coffee, period.
Vietnamese coffee—that is, the coffee grown in Vietnam like leading brand Trung Nguyen, not the Louisiana-inspired chicory coffee drunk by many members of the Vietnamese-American population—can taste remarkably floral, fruity, and bitter all at once. It has a dark, powerful kick, much more intense than the stuff we're used to, and it's made all the better by a generous slurp of sweetened condensed milk.
The winning drink formula also makes some excellent ice cream, which is at once crisp and bitter like real coffee while also being plenty rich and creamy. That creaminess is thanks in part to the can of condensed milk that goes into this recipe. It leaves a great milky flavor on the finish, but it also does marvelous things for the ice cream's texture, which is smooth to the point of glossy. As the sticky summer doldrums creep ever closer, I'll be looking to ice cream like this more and more when I want something creamy and sweet that's also refreshing.
- 6 egg yolks
- 1/4 cup ground Vietnamese coffee (see note)
- 2 cups half and half
- 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk (see note)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, to taste
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk together egg yolks and coffee until well combined. Whisk in half and half and condensed milk until fully incorporated.
Place pot over medium-low heat and cook, whisking frequently, until a custard forms on a spoon and a finger swiped across the back leaves a clean line, or until custard temperature reaches 170°F. Stir in salt to taste.
Strain custard through a fine mesh strainer and chill in either ice bath or refrigerator until it is very cold, about 40°F. Churn in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions, then transfer to an airtight container and to harden in freezer for at least 4 hours before serving.
ice cream maker
"Vietnamese coffee" in the U.S. often contains ground chicory, but this recipe calls Vietnamese-produced coffee, such as Trung Nguyen, a blend of four coffee beans with complex aromas and flavors. If you can't find it, a strong French roast is a decent substitution, though the flavor won't be quite the same. Do not use "sweetened condensed filled milk," made with skim milk and added vegetable oil, in this recipe. Stick to brands that list milk and sugar as the only ingredients.