Vietnamese Iced Coffee Ice Cream

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For scarce have I tasted thy odorous steam,
When quick from thy clime, soothing warmths round me stream,
Attentive my thoughts rise and flow light as air,
Awaking my senses and soothing my care.
Ideas that but late moved so dull and depressed,
Behold, they come smiling in rich garments dressed!
Some genius awakes me, my course is begun;
For I drink with each drop a bright ray of the sun. – Jacques Delille, Divine Coffee*

In college, I used to get a Starbucks coffee frappuccino every afternoon around 3:00. I wasn’t a morning coffee drinker then, but I got into the nap cycle and frappucinos were my only way out. It was like this: stay up till 3:00 am working on a paper; wake up at 7:45 am and sprint to 8:00 am class; struggle through classes and meetings and extracurriculars all day; go back to my room at 5:00 pm and pass out; wake up at 8:00 pm in a panic; stay up till 3:00 am finishing work (again). The only way out was to power through the 3:00 pm slump with frappuccinos.

I know frappuccinos aren’t the most caffeinated option out there, but part of the reason behind my choice was that the milkshake-y texture of a frappe was part of my reward for staying awake. If one didn’t wake me up enough, I’d just order two. I’m not kidding. These are choices I made.

Recently, I decided to “reward” myself with a frappe from a coffee shop, and confound it! I didn’t like them anymore! I thought it was way too sweet and not nearly caffeinated enough.

I have a solution: Vietnamese Iced Coffee….frozen.

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Vietnamese Iced Coffee is a coffee drink made of sweetened condensed milk. It has a really fun presentation, so if you can ever order it at a Vietnamese restaurant I highly recommend it. I’ve seen it served like this: there’s a glass with ice and several inches of sweetened condensed milk in the bottom. On top of that is a single-serve French drip coffee gadget that brews the strongest little personal serving of coffee you’ve ever tasted and drips it directly into the ice and sweetened condensed milk. The coffee is usually of a pretty coarse grind, and I like that some pieces of the grounds sometimes end up at the bottom of your glass.

Vietnamese Iced Coffee is one of those delicious yet academically loaded foods. Like the Vietnamese sandwich (bánh mì) which is the pretty obvious child of French colonialism (it’s on French bread! with pâté!), Vietnamese Iced Coffee is an adaptation of the introduction of coffee via colonialism. But you know what I love about food, and regional food in particular? It is handed colonialism and makes Vietnamese Iced Coffee. Ingénieux, non ? So at least if the peoples on all sides of colonialism have to work through the repercussions for generations to come, they can do it with iced coffee in hand.

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In my version, I made a few more…adaptations. I had certain caffeine and sugar-related needs to fulfill. This ice cream is all the sweetened goodness of a fresh Vietnamese Iced Coffee in frozen form. The blitzed up beans and cacao nibs add this incredible punch of caffeine (I’m telling you–you can feel it instantly), and the ice cream melts in a really malty, frappucino-reminscent way. Try two scoops of this stuff at 3:00 pm and you’ll never need to go out for your afternoon fix again.

If you have issues with using canned sweetened condensed milk, make your own!

This coffee falls into your stomach, and straightway there is a general commotion. Ideas begin to move like the battalions of the Grand Army on the battlefield, and the battle takes place. Things remembered arrive at full gallop, ensign to the wind. The light cavalry of comparisons deliver a magnificent deploying charge, the artillery of logic hurry up with their train and ammunition, the shafts of wit start up like sharpshooters. Similes arise, the paper is covered with ink; for the struggle commences and is concluded with torrents of black water, just as a battle with powder. – Honoré de Balzac, Treatise on Modern Stimulants*

Vietnamese Iced Coffee Ice Cream
Adapted from David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop: Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas, and Sweet Accompaniments
Makes 1 quart

1 ½ cups (600 grams) sweetened condensed milk
1 ½ cups (375 mL) espresso or strong brewed coffee
¼ cup whole milk
¼ cup heavy cream
1 Tablespoons coarse ground coffee beans
3 Tablespoons raw, unsweetened cacao nibs

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together sweetened condensed milk, coffee or espresso, whole milk, heavy cream, and coffee grounds. Cover and store in the refrigerator until chilled, at least an hour.

2. Churn ice cream in your machine of choice on a low speed until thickened (the low speed prevents too much air from getting into the ice cream and keeps your ice cream dense and rich instead of fluffy and…empty), 8 – 15 minutes.

3. In thirds, scoop ice cream into a storage container. Between scoops, add the cacao nibs a Tablespoon at a time, swirling them into the ice cream.

4. Cover and freeze for several hours, until set. Before serving, let sit for 10-15 minutes to soften slightly.

Tip for success:

  • If using an ice cream bowl attachment for a mixer, make sure it’s been in the freezer for 24 hours.
  • Use leftover coffee from your morning pot of joe!
  • Don’t eat this stuff after 4pm unless you want to stay up till the wee hours. It is SO caffeinated.

* I found these fun coffee-related excerpts in this entire (online) book devoted to the history of coffee. This page is all about coffee in literature. It could use better citation, but COFFEE! @_@

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  1. Yum, I love icecream and this flavor sounds wonderful!

    1. I just had another mug (bowl) of it!

  2. Mike Levine · · Reply

    Are the cacao nibs available locally?

    1. Hi Mike! Yes, I got them at HEB (the enormous new on Valley Mills). I got mine in the health foods aisle near strange things like hemp powder and coconut sugar. If you can’t find unsweetened, raw cacao nibs, the sweetened once will be fine. They’re tasty too, just not as strong in flavor.

  3. habitsofthought · · Reply

    This ice cream looks absolutely fabulous!

    1. Thank you! It really hits the spot.

  4. I made this over the weekend and we loved it! We are huge coffee lovers in this house so it was the perfect summertime pick me up!

    1. I’m so happy to hear that! This ice cream makes it so that you don’t have to choose between caffeine and sugar anymore!! Haha.

  5. Everything looks so beautiful!

    1. Thanks so much!

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