Asian ice cream flavors are radically different from their Western counterparts. Step into the frozen section of an Asian market and you’ll see durian, green tea, red bean, and others. Check out ice cream parlors like Nirvanaah! if you are interested in Indian flavors such as pista (pistachio and cardamom) and Alphonso mango. In Japan, I enjoyed kabocha pumpkin ice cream with a chaser of salted kombu kelp strips.
To get your feet wet in Asian ice creams, try this classic. Suspend any misgivings about eating beans in a sweet preparation. They add a richness and nutrients.
Most commercial red bean ice creams are grainy and flavorless. They also employ milk. I’m somewhat lactose intolerant so I used red beans and coconut milk – two ingredients that are often combined for Vietnamese sweets. Thickening the base with cornstarch is a Vietnamese ice cream technique too. The dairy-free frozen result is darn good. Plus, I don't have to worry about getting a tummy ache!
You can make this ice cream by soaking and cooking 1/2 cup dried adzuki beans but there’s major convenience in just opening up the can. The ice cream comes together in a flash.
Red Bean and Coconut Ice Cream
Ca Rem Dau Do
I used Eden brand organic adzuki beans, which contains kombu, a type of Japanese kelp that lends a certain viscosity to the ice cream, producing a silky finish. Eden brand is widely sold at specialty markets and health food stores. Also, use full fat coconut milk. The fat in coconut milk is not bad. If you’re concerned about calories, eat just one scoop at a time.
Makes about 3 cups
One 15-ounce can adzuki beans, drained (1 1/2 cups)
One 13.5-ounce can coconut milk (1 2/3 cups)
8 to 9 tablespoons sugar
2 big pinches of salt
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Use a blender to puree the beans and coconut milk to a very smooth texture. Aim for a milkshake smoothness. Pass the mixture through a fine mesh strainer. Discard the solids. Briefly set aside.
2. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, salt, and cornstarch. Whisk in the coconut milk and bean mixture.
Cook over medium heat, stirring and scraping the bottom, for 5 to 8 minutes, until thickened. Coat the back of a spoon, run your finger through the mixture and the line should hold well. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
If you suspect lumps, pass the mixture through the mesh strainer again. Let cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally to avoid a skin from forming at the surface. Cover and refrigerate for 24 to 48 hours to chill well and develop the flavors.
3. Freeze the mixture in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s directions.