I mentioned earlier that some of the best food I’ve ever eaten was in Vietnam, primarily in stalls in back alleys and nondescript restaurants. It literally makes me want to cry when I hear of people going to Vietnam and not eating the street food (worried about your stomach? Try grapefruit seed extract). Because the food at all the restaurants catering to tourists was less than inspiring.
There was, however, one notable exception: Fanny’s Ice Cream. In the middle of the chaos of Hanoi and Saigon, Fanny’s always provided a much-needed break from the hawkers, motorbikes, heat and humidity. Oh, and they had some pretty great ice cream too.
In addition to standbys like chocolate and strawberry, they also had a number of Asian-inspired flavors such as young rice, ginger and star anise. I don’t remember whether lemongrass ice cream was on the menu or not, but I can tell you that it’s going to become a new favorite over on this side of the Pacific.
The lemongrass is bright and refreshing, a perfect palate cleanser. Best of all? It’s not a custard-based ice cream, so I don’t have to worry about finding a use for leftover egg whites. Cornstarch does double duty by thickening the base and preventing ice crystals from forming. If you’re a lemongrass fan you’re definitely going to want to dust off those ice cream makers and give this one a shot.
Lemongrass Ice Cream
Yield: 6 servings
* 2 cups whole milk
* 1-1/2 cups chopped lemongrass (remove the dry, woody sections from the top of the stalks)
* 3/4 cup sugar
* 2-1/2 Tablespoons cornstarch
* 1 cup half-and-half
Combine the whole milk, lemongrass, and sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and half-and-half until smooth. Add to the saucepan and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and can coat the back of a wooden spoon.
Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve to remove the lemongrass. Cover and chill at least 3-4 hours, or up to 24 hours.