Sunday, October 9, 2011

Delicious Vietnam--Chi Lang Profiteroles with Caramel Rum Sauce

The first thing someone usually says to me when they hear I have a blog called Javaholic is "oh, so you write about coffee."  And then I explain that no, my blog is not about coffee or coffeehouses, but deals mostly with Indonesian and Southeast Asian food, with a leaning towards the food of Java.  In fact, I believe this is my first post in the two and a half years the blog has been in existence that coffee is the primary focus of the post.  And then it's for Vietnamese coffee.  As the basis for ice cream.

Although not a focus of this blog, I do drink several cups of coffee almost every day,  and have done so for most of the last thirty-five years or so.  I like my coffee black, no sugar, no milk--kopi pahit in Indonesia, kopi o kosong in Singapore and Malaysia, cafe den in Vietnam. However, I occasionally enjoy a glass of cafe sua da, Vietnamese iced-coffee with sweetened condensed milk.  So when I came across a recipe for Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream in David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop, I decided to use it as the basis for my submission to this month's Delicious Vietnam.

(Follow the jump for the recipe and the rest of the story.)

In 1994, recently married and living in Vietnam, I was struggling to make a living as an ESL teacher in Saigon.  Some friends and I had the bright idea of trying to establish an English language school with a Vietnamese partner and while our classes were full, we were being paid in dong.  I also had some private lessons, so my days often began at 7:00 in the morning and my last class didn't end until 9:00 at night.

One of the simple pleasures in Saigon was having a cup of coffee at a streetside cafe.  Chi Lang was a small park located on Dong Khoi where we would sometimes stop after our last class. At a time when a dollar was worth about 15,000 dong, an iced coffee was around 4,000 dong and for 3,000 more you could add a shot of local rum to get what we called Vietnamese rocket fuel.  It was a great energy boost at the end of a long day, but I soon learned it was not anything to fool with if I wanted to get a good sleep that night.  Although I was saddened during our last visit to Saigon several years ago to see that Chi Lang had been turned into yet another high end shopping center, its combination of Vietnamese coffee and rum was the inspiration for these profiteroles. 

All of the recipes used to assemble this dish are actually from The Perfect Scoop.  I was thinking of using a cream based caramel, but when I read Lebovitz's recipe, it seemed much more appropriate as it is essentially just Vietnamese caramel sauce with a shot of rum.  Add some whipped cream if you like; I would have if I had had some at hand.  A good chocolate sauce would also complement the ice cream.

 Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream

1 1/2 cups sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups espresso or strongly brewed coffee--use decaffeinated coffee if you wish, but use good coffee
1/2 cup half and half (light cream)
1 tsp finely ground dark roast coffee

Whisk together, the condensed milk, espresso, half and half, and ground coffee.  Chill.  When the mixture is thoroughly chilled, freeze it in an ice cream maker.

1/2 cup water
1 tsp sugar
3 TBS unsalted butter, cut in small pieces
1/2 cup flour
2 large eggs, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 425º F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat.

Stir the water, sugar, and butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until the butter is melted.  Remove the pan from the heat and dump in the flour.  Stir briskly with a wooden spoon until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the pan.

After allowing the dough to cool for two minutes, beat in one egg at a time.  After the first egg has been thoroughly incorporated, beat in the second egg.  The dough should be smooth and satiny.

Using two spoons or a pastry bag, make mounds of dough about the size of walnuts on the baking sheet evenly spaced about an inch apart.  Bake the puffs for about 30 minutes or until puffed and golden brown (I found they were done around 24 minutes in my oven).  Turn off the oven and leave them in for another five minutes.  These are best on the day they are made.

Caramel Rum Sauce

If you have some Vietnamese caramel sauce on hand for your kho, simply add a tablespoon (or more!) of a good dark rum to make the caramel rum sauce.

To make Vietnamese caramel sauce, Andrea Nguyen has a good tutorial here.

To serve the profiteroles, split a cream puff and fill with a generous scoop of the ice cream.  Drizzle a small amount of the caramel sauce on top.

I'm submitting this post for Delicious Vietnam # 18, hosted this month by bonniebella.  Delicious Vietnam is a monthly food blogging event open to any Vietnamese food lover.  The  aim is to promote and explore the diversity of Vietnamese cuisine.

The idea behind this event came about several years ago by Anh of A food lovers’ journey. Hooking up with Hong and Kim from Ravenous Couple, the idea finally came to fruition.  To learn more about Delicious Vietnam and how you can participate, click on this link.


  1. It was interesting to read about some of your experiences in Vietnam. I'm not a coffee drinker but I'm always fascinated by the way Vietnamese coffee is served. And the ice cream profiterole combination looks delish!

  2. Thanks. Vietnam is a wonderful country to visit, its cities vibrant and alive all hours of the day and night. Cafes are such an integral part of Vietnamese culture that even the refugee camps had thriving cafes. It's a shame that some of the streetside cafes are disappearing from Saigon, that parks are being replaced by shopping malls.


If you have any questions you would like me to answer, please e-mail me. Otherwise, please check back on the post where you commented for any updates.