“I have something special and very interesting,” my dad said to my husband and me. Then Dad opened a jar of thick, brown liquid. “Try it with your coffee this morning.” I tasted it off a spoon and it turned out to be a caramel-flavored sweetened condensed milk. My husband stirred some into his coffee and pronounced the milk a new flavor taste treat. It wasn’t nutty and not as sweet as regular sweetened condensed milk, he noted.
My dad, approving of the approval, explained, “We bought it on discount at the supermarket. No one wanted it and it’s made by Borden. We thought it would be good, so Mom and I decided to try it. Only $1! The regular price is about $2.49 per can.”
The next morning, my parents returned from early morning mass and presented my husband with ten (10!) cans of the caramel-flavored sweetened condensed milk. Tickled by their find, Dad said, “The expiration date on the can is soon, but you drink coffee everyday so you should be able to use it up.”
Whoa, I’ve never owned so much sweetened condensed milk (SCM). The can label showed a cheesecake dripping with the milk but that’s not how we typically use SCM. I began thinking of Asian ways to use up the milk and came up with this list.
This is a no brainer, right? There are hot and cold coffee options in the Viet repertoire. I’ve written a recipe for coconut coffee in The Pho Cookbook that’s like a crazy tropical iced coffee drink. Use a dark roast for an excellent cup. I usually get a French roast. At Café N Te, a Viet coffee roaster and café spot in Little Saigon, I bought a Saigon blend of mostly Sumatra beans that was beautifully smooth tasting.
In my family, after opening, we transfer the sua dac (sweetened condensed milk) from the can to a jar to store in the fridge. To make sure that we get all the precious sweetness, we pour hot coffee into the can, stir and swirl, then pour it back into a cup.
Alternatively, pour hot water into the can to create a diluted condensed milk, a comforting light beverage. Someone on Instagram recently said it’s supposed to facilitate lactation for women who have recently given birth. I just like it as a warm milky drink.
Thai Iced Tea
Viet people aren’t the only ones who like to add sweetened condensed milk to their caffeinated beverages. How about some Thai iced tea? This recipe from Eating Thai Food combines SCM with evaporated milk. Mark also provides nice cultural background information.
Avocado and Condensed Milk Shake
It sounds healthy but it’s such an indulgence – rich avocado plus condensed milk – slightly thinned out by ice. You can practically enjoy the shake with a spoon. I wrote about sinh to bo years ago and the recipe has not changed! Add chocolate syrup, if you like.
Condensed Milk Toast and Fried Bao
My grandfather often started his day with Vietnamese coffee and baguette plus a side of sua dac. Mom says he dipped the bread into the milk for a rich-sweet treat.
At Hong Kong’s cha chaan teng (casual diner-type eateries serving European-Chinese dishes), I’ve seen sliced white toast served with SCM. There’s such a thing as sweetened condensed milk sandwiches, too.
I have also ordered deep-fried plain steamed bao with a dip of SCM at a Chinese-style dumpling shop in San Francisco. The bao were hot and crispy and the milk hit the spot.
Avocado Condensed Milk Toast
Given the condensed milk toast and shake ideas, I thought of combining them for an avocado toast! You can use whole grain bread if you like, but I used sliced Italian ciabatta. French baguette, like the lightweight kind used for banh mi, would be swell too.
The caramel flavored sweetened condensed milk was surprisingly deeper in flavor and amplified the avocado a bit more than the regular kind of SCM.
No-Churn Ice Cream
With a little more time, you can use condensed milk for no-churn ice cream! For Vietnamese Food Any Day, I created a no-churn Vietnamese coffee ice cream (see page 210). You can gild the lily by adding itty bitty bits of chopped chocolate, or even try cocoa nibs. It’s a super easy method of making a lovely sweet.
Let’s not forget shaved ice topped with a generous drizzle of condensed milk. In Taiwan I ate up a mountain of shaved ice, mango and sweetened condensed milk. It was hot and humid, so the shaved ice satisfied.
In Vietnam we lean toward sweetened coconut milk and are not so much into shaved ice as other countries. However, shaved ice is super popular elsewhere, and you can get a global lowdown at Eater’s “Guide to Shaved Ice”. If you want to make shaved ice with condensed milk, this Korean Patbingsu shaved ice recipe is a good place to start.
Then, there’s flan. My mom used to steam hers but for the new book, I oven baked the flan in ramekins in a steam bath. The results are fabulous enough to have gotten my family’s approval during the holidays. In Vietnamese Food Any Day, the main recipe on page 221 is for an Orange-Rum Flan but also check the Notes for a Vietnamese Coffee Flan that’s also a stunner.
Condensed Milk Marinade
The Thais sometimes use sweetened condensed milk in meat marinades and sauces. I found this interesting Asian-inspired recipe for spicy sweet fried chicken tenders that includes SCM and red curry paste. Here’s a recipe for pork satay with coconut and condensed milk glaze! It’s easy and delicious.
Condensed Milk Tips
Buy full-fat condensed milk because it tastes better than the low-calorie kind. Use a little less, if you like. It’s a caloric splurge so you don’t have to have SCM everyday!
What brand to buy? The Old Man (Longevity) brand is the go-to at Viet and Chinese markets. However, Borden (Eagle Brand) matches its flavor and is also sold at regular supermarkets. If you’re vegan, try a coconut condensed milk.
How to keep sweetened condensed milk? Store condensed milk in a jar and keep refrigerated for a good month. Or, freeze it up to 3 months. Always bring sweetened condensed milk to room temperature to use. It will fully express its flavor in your food and beverages.
What do you use sweetened condense milk for?
Vietnamese Food Any Day Updates
Lots happened last week! Phew. Thanks for all your support!
- I was on national television for the first time. If you didn’t catch me on Hallmark channel’s Home and Family, you can watch me here.
- Bon Appetit magazine chose VFAD as one of their Spring 2019 favorite picks!
- I was also on Appetites at MPR (Minnesota public radio) and interviewed for “You Are What You Eat”, a Codeswitch food podcast at NPR (National Public Radio).
- The April 8 forum in Minneapolis titled, “Insiders or Outsiders: Who Owns Asian Food” filled fast and we opened up the space to accommodate wait list folks and others. Ticket information is here. The Star Tribune newspaper in Minneapolis published a terrific interview I had with one of their lead food reporters, Lee Dean. Lots of Minnesota love!