Ice cream made without proper churning is often a grainy, icy disappointment. As is most ice cream bought in Hanoi, unfortunately. Here’s the solution: no-churn frozen yogurt, made using homemade yogurt and super-ripe fruit, mango in this case.
Power outages happen occasionally in my Hanoi neighbourhood, but the poor quality of the frozen goods here seems to be a direct result of disdain for generally accepted freezer conventions. Things are changing for the better, but in my experience there’s a high probability that the ice block you choose in the mini-mart freezer lucky dip will have partially melted and refrozen at least once. Just last week we parked at a favourite lunch time spot next to a bike with a bag full of Celano’s hanging from the hook in direct sunlight. The owner was inside getting take-away, not a quick stop as every meal is freshly prepared, while the poor ice creams disappeared into oblivion.
One of the most beautiful things about living in Hanoi is the sudden appearance of unfamiliar produce in markets and in the baskets of roaming bicycle vendors. Even though I’ve lived here for so long, some things that I’ve never seen, or have seen and not noticed before, still pop up every now and then.
Just last week, our post-gym coconut spot was selling these unusual fruit. Shiny, fibrous orbs about the size of a large eggplant topped with overlapping leaves. We added one to our fruit haul and then watched as the seller starts slicing through one with a mini-machete for a different customer. He removed a few slices off the bottom to reveal 3 oval shaped translucent pods.
Later, at home, I fell into a google hole of research and have only just found my way out. This is the fruit of the Borassus Flabellifer also known as the Palmyra or Sugar Palm.
Apparently when ripe the white section can turn yellow/orange and is eaten as well. In fact every part of the tree can be used for different applications. They’re common in India and South East Asia, and it is the national tree of Cambodia.
We found cutting through the course outer layers more difficult than the demonstration indicated. When we finally got into it, the 3 seed sockets were filled with some bland liquid and a slightly bitter and quite firm jelly, easily removed with a spoon. These are similar to the palm seeds (attap chee from the nipa palm) that feature in iced desserts across South East Asia, just not nearly as texturally pleasant or delicious.
I have to admit that I didn’t get past a few tiny taste tests. Even a sprinkling of sugar did nothing to improve the flavour. It was bland with unpalatable undertones. The very limited amount of jelly in the fruit was therefore a blessing in disguise.
Would I spend 40,000vnd (~$2) on a random piece of produce again? Most definitely!
Would I buy this particular fruit again? Not likely. Not unless I had some palm fruit advice and a good recipe. I’d also ask the fruit vendor to slice it open.
There’s a great Japanese restaurant nearby that serves luscious lunch sets. Each set comes with an array of side dishes, some which change daily alongside constants: miso soup and steamed egg custard, chawanmushi. It took a while for me to get used to the taste of this delicate, savoury custard, which comes loaded with seafood and meat. The texture is more often experienced in sweet dishes and being served warm seemed strange. But after learning to enjoy chawanmushi I couldn’t stop thinking about a savoury custard tart, wibbly wobbly in the centre, served warm for breakfast. This slow cooked frittata recipe, is just that, but without pastry so it’s easier to whip up on a breakfast whim.
I haven’t made or eaten Anzac biscuits for too many years. Years of living without easy access to golden syrup, rolled oats, and an oven, meant that I kind of just forgot about this childhood favourite. Until Anzac Day rolled around and I got to talking about the biscuits again.
Anzac biscuits are sweet, egg-less treats that are said to have been baked by mothers and wives from Australia and New Zealand and sent to soldiers at war. They’re well suited to long journeys and they keep for an extended period of time, though they never last long in my house.
I wrote about Anzac’s once before here, about how they were a staple in the houses of my parents and grandparents, the only sweet treat that made an appearance with any regularity in my childhood home. Although my husband (yes, I got married!), has tried a pre-packaged, sub-standard ‘Anzac Cookie’, he had never smelled the sweetness of a batch of Anzac’s cooking, and he’d never tasted the real thing. This had to change.
It’s a surprise that I never got around to writing about yogurt here. For the last few years it’s been a regular part of my routine. Making homemade yogurt is super simple and the process that makes regular milk becoming creamy and thick could almost be magical, but it’s all in the bacteria.
There are loads of different incubation methods I’ve read about, including wrapping bottles in towels and leaving yogurt jars in an oven with the pilot light on, but none of these have worked for me. My go-to method is using a thermos, and it has never failed. The thermos does what it’s supposed to do – hold the milk at the same temperature for a long period of time, while the bacteria does it’s job. The most difficult part of this is getting the thickened yogurt out of the thermos when it’s ready.
The recipe is simple and adaptable. If you want the final product to be more sour, leave it in the thermos longer. For thicker yogurt, it can be strained through cheesecloth for a few hours or overnight. To make yogurt cheese, add a weight when you strain it to get even more liquid out.