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Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream

Recently, I have been reading Dianne Jacob‘s “Will Write for Food”. No, wait. Not reading it – I am studying the book. As in taking notes, underlining important sentences and making a list of buzz words to avoid, etc. One of the chapters in the book talks about getting the passion across, which is to me one of the core elements of good food writing. Jacob quotes Colman Andrews, co-founder of Saveur, now with Gourmet: “When you turn a camera on people to get to their passion, they freeze up, use big words, and become stilted, especially when they’re very emotional about a subject. You can’t just open a vein and let it flow out. If you’re very passionate about some wonderful dish, you have to tame your passion to write about it, or it will probably come across sounding stupid.”

So, at the risk of sounding stupid, I want to say: The Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream from David’s book is one of the greatest ice cream flavors in the world.

How can it not be? It has sweetened condensed milk, strongly brewed dark roast coffee and David’s touch in it.

Seriously, I haven’t felt this passionate about an ice cream recipe for the longest time. I prepared three batches in a single week and didn’t even tell my friends about it. I don’t usually get secretive when I discover an amazing recipe like this. I feel this urge to tell the whole world about it and want my friends to taste it, too. But see, I had to tame my passion by eating loads of this ice cream – alone.

Sweetened condensed milk isn’t widely available in Turkey. In fact, I only know of a single store that carries the stuff. They usually stock it in low quantities and I buy the whole shelf when I stumble upon it.

To prepare the semolina halva for Janet, I bought their entire stock, which was 7 cans. I used 3 of them trying to figure out the best combination for the halva, one while I cooked it for Janet, which left me with three cans.

The preparation is a breeze. This ice cream is not custard-based, so the whole thing comes together in 5 minutes. After a thorough chill in the freezer, it is ready to go.

By the way, if you’d like to see how Vietnamese Coffee is brewed, here’s Jaden’s post about the iced version. She also has a link to a video demonstration she did for ABC7 inside the post. Check it out!

I haven’t made any changes to David’s original recipe. Ingredient list has “very strongly brewed coffee” and “a big pinch of finely ground dark roast coffee”.

Now, my idea of a strongly brewed coffee is already scary. And when you say “very” strong, I am destined for a hyperbolic version.

You say coffee, I ask how many gallons.

You say a big pinch, I add a tablespoon.

So that’s what happened. Feel free to play with the proportions to fit your taste.


recipe from Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz


  • 1 cup (400 g) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1+1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup ( 1.3 oz or 40 g) + 1 tbsp dark roast ground coffee, divided
  • 1/3 cup whole milk


  1. Brew a very strong coffee with 1+1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup of ground coffee. With a paper filter, that will yield 1 cup of very strongly brewed coffee. You can substitute with a cup of strongly brewed espresso.
  2. Whisk together the condensed milk, espresso, milk and ground coffee. Chill the mixture thoroughly (3 hours in the freezer worked for me), then freeze it in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions.