Vietnamese Yoghurt

3 December 2011

Post image for Vietnamese Yoghurt

It is often observed in the Vietnamese culture, and also amongst other Asian groups, that a typical greeting when you see someone is not “Hi, how are you?” but, rather, “Hi, have you eaten yet?”

Even when my mother calls me, if she’s not asking me first what the time is where I am (either because she’s never sure which country I am in or she’s just too lazy to look up the time difference), she will inevitably ask me if I have eaten yet. It is almost the equivalent of asking someone how they are but without the desire to actually know, although if you do respond with a “No”, you can expect an immediate invitation to actually go and eat, whatever the time of day. For my mum and I, it happens to be our way of keeping in touch. She often loses track of, or interest in, my activities, and rather than boring each other with details of our unremarkable days, she will often call me to see if I have eaten, offering suggestions for the week’s menu and reciting recipes over the telephone while I eagerly scribble everything down on the back of an envelope.

Often when I am on the phone with my mum, hubby will regularly shoot me puzzled looks, not just because my mother is usually doing most of the talking at the other end of the line at a loud and rapid speed which he can hear at perfect pitch through the receiver, but he will often catch a few words in my vocabulary which are delivered in English or – more to his amusement – French but in a comical Vietnamese accent.

French words like butter (beurre), coffee (café) and yoghurt (jaourt) exist in Vietnamese, but naturally spoken with the characteristic Vietnamese accent. What is more interesting is seeing the Vietnamese spelling of these words which is often written phonetically in Vietnamese to produce a similar sound in French. For example, café is written in Vietnamese as cà phê and chocolat is sô cô la.

The French occupation of Vietnam in the 19th century, for better or for worse, conferred certain elements of French custom and cuisine into the Vietnamese culture in way which is both intriguing to observe and charming to experience. It is somewhat unusual to associate Vietnamese cuisine with dairy food, the latter not being common fare in Asian countries, but the French had obviously persuaded the Vietnamese otherwise. In particular, there was the indelible legacy of yoghurt which the Vietnamese embraced and cleverly adapted to local ingredients and climate conditions.

Vietnamese yoghurt is both sweet and tangy, the defining ingredient being sweetened condensed milk. I have fond memories of eating Vietnamese yoghurt as a child, particularly as a frozen snack which served as a welcoming and refreshing treat during the hot Australian summers. It is typically eaten as a snack or served as a dessert due to its sweet taste, but it works just as well at breakfast. Given my recent foray into the world of homemade yoghurt, I was reminded of this lovely treat and went about experimenting in the kitchen.

Most recipes for Vietnamese yoghurt specify a whole 400 g can of sweetened condensed milk, which I have tried and, despite my sweet tooth, found it to be too sweet for my liking. Whilst the Vietnamese yoghurt of my youth was certainly on the sweet side, and which probably accounts for its popularity with children, with my changing tastes as an adult, I wanted something more tart.

The following is my recipe for Vietnamese yoghurt with instructions for using a yoghurt machine. But if you don’t have a yoghurt machine (and you certainly don’t need one to make yoghurt), you can try the method described at the blog of White On Rice Couple, who’s recipe I have adapted to my own.

After 8 hours in the yoghurt machine, and at least a few hours in the fridge, the resulting yoghurt is quite thick in texture but of a pouring quality, i.e. you could drink the yoghurt if you wish. For a firmer texture, leave the yoghurt in the yoghurt machine for another hour or so. And because there is only half as much sweetened condensed milk, it is not as sweet as the Vietnamese yoghurt you can buy from Vietnamese grocers, but it is still certainly on the sweet side but with a subtle tang. As with most things in the kitchen, making yoghurt requires a bit of experimenting to arrive at your preferred taste and texture, but once you get there, the results are well worth it.

Ingredients
220 g (8 oz) sweetened condensed milk (approximately half a 400 g/14 oz can)
375 ml (1 1/2 cups) boiling water
360 g (13 oz or 1 cup) organic natural plain yoghurt
310 ml (1 1/4 cup) organic full cream milk

Sterilise the yoghurt jars by washing them in hot and soapy water, rinsing them, and then leaving them to dry in a low oven at 150°C (300°F). Cool the jars before using.

Whisk together the sweetened condensed milk and the boiling water in a large jug.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the yoghurt and milk. Then pour in the sweetened condensed milk mixture and stir everything together.

Fill the yoghurt jars with the mixture. The easiest way is to pour the mixture back into the large jug or to use a bowl which has a spout.

Place the yoghurt jars in the yoghurt machine and use as per the manufacturer’s instructions. With my Tefal La Yaoutière, it requires 45 minutes with the machine turned on, after which time the machine automatically switches off and is left unattended for 8 hours while the yoghurt ferments. After this time, the yoghurt should be quite firm, thick and creamy in texture. If you prefer a thicker texture, leave it to ferment for another 1 or 2 hours.

Remove the cover of the yoghurt machine and cover each yoghurt jar with a lid or some clingfilm, and place the yoghurt jars in the fridge for a few hours or overnight to set.

The yoghurt keeps well in the fridge for about 1 week.

Yaourt Vietnamien

Ingrédients
220 g de lait concentré sucré
37.5 cl d’eau bouillante
360 g de yaourt entier nature
31 cl de lait frais entier

Stérilisation des pots: Les laver à l’eau très chaude additionnée de liquide- vaisselle, les rincer puis les sécher au four à 150°C. Les laisser refroidir avant usage.

Fabrication: Battre ensemble le lait concentré et l’eau bouillante dans un grand pichet. Dans un bol moyen mélanger le yaourt et le lait entier puis verser le contenu du pichet et brasser le tout au fouet. Remplir les pots. Remarque: pour plus de facilité, utiliser des récipients munis d’un bec verseur.

Placer les pots dans la yaourtière comme indiqué sur la notice de l’appareil et suivre les instructions. Pour exemple: une yaourtière Tefal fonctionne 45 mn puis s’arrête automatiquement, les pots devant ensuite demeurer à l’intérieur environ 8 h (durée de la fermentation). Au bout de ce temps, les yaourts sont normalement épais et crémeux. Remarque: on peut attendre 1 ou 2 h de plus si on préfère une consistance plus ferme.

Sortir les pots de l’appareil, les protéger par un couvercle ou du film étirable. Les laisser reposer quelques heures au réfrigérareur où leur durée de conservation est d’environ 1 semaine.

{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Caroline 3 December 2011 at 5:15 am

Love this post and the nuggets of information about your family :-) I can identify with the “have you eaten” thing and the loud, rapid manner of speaking which come so naturally to Asian mothers! haha! Made me chuckle reading it

Am rather curious about the fact that its made with condensed milk. My kids adore yoghurt too so this would be right up their alley.

Think a yoghurt maker might be the way to go…..

Lovely post Thanh :-D

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Anna-in-N. 3 December 2011 at 3:00 pm

Caroline,
You do not need a yoghurt maker, if your oven has a light.

The temperature of the bulb of your oven light is perfect for “hatching”
your yoghurt. (… any kind of yoghurt as well as letting yeast dough rise).

I have been making my yoghurt this way for years.
It takes between 7 to 9 hours to ferment, while the light stays on.

I also like it, that the yoghurt is “out of the way”
… and if you use your oven during the day
…….. you can make yoghurt during the night.

-Anna
a (German) yoghurt addict in Nashville

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eat, little bird 3 December 2011 at 3:46 pm

Hi Anna, I haven’t heard about this method before! I have read that you can ferment the yoghurt in the oven at a very low temperature (between 40°C and 45°C), although I haven’t tried this method yet. But using the heat from the oven light is an interesting concept.

May I ask how old your oven might be? I have a feeling this method might only work with certain, perhaps older, ovens. We recently moved and now have a sparkling, brand-new oven which has some special light-bulb which doesn’t heat up much.

I love hearing about the different methods people use to make yoghurt. After my previous post on yoghurt, I received quite a few emails from people explaining how they made yoghurt at home without a yoghurt machine, but that it took a few attempts before they got the process right for them, much depending on the size of the pot they used and how hot the water was. I love this sort of feedback! :-)

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Anna-in-N. 3 December 2011 at 4:04 pm

Hello Thanh,

I have been making my yoghurt this way now for several years,
however you are right, that a new (energy-efficient) light bulbs
may not work. My oven is about two years old and the light bulb in it
is the “normal” appliance bulb and it gives the oven a low temperature
of about 40-42º Celsius (~ 100ºF).

I am staring “heating-up” the oven, when I start scaldinging my milk.
(to 80ºC or 180ºF) and then cooling it down to (40C/115F). That takes some
time, as I am mostly making Yoghurt from one Gallon of milk.*)
By the time all has cooled down and the yoghurt is ready to ferment
the temperature in the oven is perfect. Yesterday I started my yoghurt around noon
and it was not quite firm by 9 PM (as it normally would) .. so I left it over night
and this morning it was a little more tart, than usual, but had thickened perfectly.

*) I drain half of the yoghurt and use this as “sour cream” or where others
would use cream-cheese. I like the idea, that I know exactly, what is in it.

Your sweetened yoghurt sounds interesting and I will make it as a desert.
-Anna

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eat, little bird 3 December 2011 at 4:18 pm

Thank you for this wonderful information, Anna!

It sounds like you are a pro at making yoghurt and cheese at home! I have also found that a longer fermentation time means both a thicker yoghurt and a more sour taste. I happen to quite like tart yoghurts, especially since I moved to Switzerland where they make delicious plain yoghurt, so this Vietnamese yoghurt is something I would also prefer as a snack or for dessert. Please let me know if you do try this recipe. I would love to hear your feedback :-)

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Anna-in-N. 3 December 2011 at 4:34 pm

I will let you know … and have subscribed to you blog.
Like you, I like my yoghurt “tartly”.

A smile and best wishes for a
….. schoene Vorweihnachtszeit in der Schweiz
(in case you are in the German part of Switzerland
one of my nieces lives in Basel)
-Anna

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eat, little bird 3 December 2011 at 4:42 pm

Merci vielmal! Ich wünsche Ihnen auch eine schöne Vorweihnachtszeit in Nashville :-)

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Liz Headon 3 December 2011 at 10:04 am

My immediate reaction on seeing the title was “But Asians don’t eat dairy produce !” Of course, on reading the whole thing and being reminded of the French influence in the area, I now know why they do in Vietnam ! I also loved the linguistic insights, being a languages person myself…

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eat, little bird 3 December 2011 at 3:56 pm

LOL! Yes, that is a common misperception, that Asian’s don’t eat dairy products. For the most part, I think it is true for most Asian societies, and whilst the locals in Vietnam probably don’t aim for three serves of dairy per day, products like butter, yoghurt and cheese are most certainly commonly eaten.

Are you a linguist or more someone with a natural talent for languages? Or both? :-) I love learning languages and only recently made the connection between certain Vietnamese words and their French counterparts, something which I found fascinating and funny (in a good way) at the same time. I like that, rather than inventing a new word in the local language, the Vietnamese simply used the same French word, a sign of their no-fuss and efficient attitude :-)

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Liz Headon 3 December 2011 at 4:41 pm

I think I do have some talent for languages, but French and Spanish were the subjects I studied at university (many, many years ago… lol). I also know a little German, and am currently learning Italian. I find that with knowing French and Spanish I can “get the gist” of both Italian and Portuguese when I see them written down, though I can’t claim to speak either. I am learning Italian as I have given in to my son’s long-term persuasion that I really ought to get to know Italy, a holiday destination I had mostly avoided till now.

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eat, little bird 3 December 2011 at 4:59 pm

Oh I’m jealous of people like you ;-) I wish I had a flair for languages – it takes me ages just to get the basics! But learning languages is quite fun and something I wish I could devote more time to. I’m so glad that your son has good powers of persuasion because Italy is such a wonderful place to travel. We have holidayed there on a few occasions now and each trip has been amazing! Not only is the local culture just fascinating, but the food is gorgeous and the people are so friendly and hospitable. And Italian is such a beautiful language … I think it even sounds better than French …

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Jean 3 December 2011 at 11:03 am

Love this story and the sweet pale photos…
What does a yoghurt machine do? Stir? Stir and maintain at 37 degrees? Stir and chill?

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eat, little bird 3 December 2011 at 3:35 pm

Jean, the yoghurt machine is a bit like a water bath, but without the water. It helps to keep the yoghurt at a constant temperature, usually between 38°C and 42°C, while the yoghurt is fermenting. That’s it. There’s no stirring at all like with an ice-cream machine. You simply fill the jars with the yoghurt mixture, place them in the yoghurt machine, and then turn on the machine. The machine will then heat up to the ideal temperature and automatically turn off. Because there is a lid that covers all of the yoghurt pots, it keeps the heat inside, thus creating the ideal situation for the yoghurt to develop.

You can achieve the same results by placing the filled yoghurt jars in a large pan, and then pouring in some hot water up to about 1cm from the rim of the yoghurt jars. Cover the pan with a lid or a teatowel and set it aside for the yoghurt to ferment. Because the water is not being kept at a constant temperature and that it will cool over a few hours, there is a bit more trial and error with this method insofar as the fermentation time. But this is how my mother made yoghurt at home and after a few attempts, you will have a good idea about the timing.

So the main advantage of a yoghurt machine is the ability to maintain a constant temperature. It’s not an essential kitchen appliance but one which I enjoy using very much :-)

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Jean 3 December 2011 at 3:44 pm

Thanks for the tips, Thanh! I’ll have to give it a go. I love all dairy products and especially both condensed milk and natural yogurt… I’ll get round to it some day soon and will let you know x

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eat, little bird 3 December 2011 at 3:58 pm

Oh wonderful! I would love to hear about it if you do get to try this recipe :-)

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Liz Headon 3 December 2011 at 4:38 pm

A yoghurt machine is something I’ve often wondered about getting, but is it possible to make smaller quantities ? I wouldn’t really want 8+ pots at a time (unless it keeps well).

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eat, little bird 3 December 2011 at 4:50 pm

Hi Liz! Of course, you could halve the recipe and just make about 4 small pots of yoghurt. Recently, I have been making yoghurt in smaller batches and which will last me about a week. But the “cooking” process and fermentation time will still be the same, so about 8 to 9 hours which you can do overnight.

I should clarify that the yoghurt machine is not actually “on” for 8 to 9 hours. It is only on for about 45 minutes when it is warming up to about 42°C, and then it automatically switches off. I think all yoghurt machines generally do the same.

I will post some more yoghurt recipes shortly, including one for natural plain yoghurt if that might take your fancy? :-)

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Anita Menon 3 December 2011 at 1:02 pm

A sweet post. I particularly enjoyed the little tidbids you shared about your family and mum. This yogurt making thing looks a little complicated to me.

Beautiful pictures.

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eat, little bird 3 December 2011 at 4:00 pm

Ah Anita, I recall that you make yoghurt the traditional way so, of course, this yoghurt machine would look like a scary science experiment! ;-) But it is really easy to use – I promise! Purists would naturally laugh at the idea that such a machine exists, but I’m a true convert :-)

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At Anna's Kitchen Table 3 December 2011 at 4:17 pm

I think I’d really enjoy this yoghurt! Especially the condensed milk part (I have a sweet tooth!!)

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eat, little bird 3 December 2011 at 4:19 pm

I think anything with sweetened condensed milk can only taste good! I used to spread this on my bread for breakfast as a child … I might have to pick up that habit again soon ;-)

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Amber 3 December 2011 at 11:33 pm

I received a yogurt maker as a gift last year for Christmas and have never opened the box. After seeing this post I am going to dig it out of the attic and give it a try!

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eat, little bird 4 December 2011 at 12:00 am

You’ve never used your yoghurt maker?? Well, I guess it’s too late to return it now so you may as well give it a try ;-)

Most yoghurt machines will come with some recipes, but making yoghurt is pretty easy. I think what turns most people off using a yoghurt machine is that it is an unfamiliar kitchen appliance but, to be honest, I think it’s really straightforward to use. And if you and your family like to eat yoghurt, it can be fun to try and make it yourself at home. The best part is that you can control the quality of the ingredients and how much sugar you want to add, if any.

Let me know if you have any questions :-)

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The Food Sage 4 December 2011 at 10:04 am

While this is not something i am likely to make – don’t have a yogurt maker – i really enjoyed the insight into your family life and culture. Your mum sounds like quite some woman!

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eat, little bird 4 December 2011 at 4:00 pm

Oh yes, she is a woman with a BIG personality!!! :-)

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Elena 4 December 2011 at 7:10 pm

Can you add any flavor to this yoghurt, as vanila or lemon??? Thanka!!! ;o))

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eat, little bird 4 December 2011 at 11:17 pm

Hi Elena! For this Vietnamese yoghurt, I would probably not add any additional flavour such as vanilla or lemon because you would then lose the taste of the sweetened condensed milk, which is the key ingredient in this yoghurt.

I will post another yoghurt recipe soon where you can play with the flavours more, such as adding vanilla or lemon :-)

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Reem | Simply Reem 7 December 2011 at 7:09 am

Beautiful!!!
You know I actually make fresh homemade yogurt and yes I put it in my oven with oven light on.
There is nothing like homemade yogurt…
This looks so delicious and pictures are wonderful!!!

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eat, little bird 9 December 2011 at 9:30 pm

Oh wow! Before Anna mentioned it above, I had never heard of this method using the oven light. Thanks for letting me know that you also use this method. I find it very interesting!!

I agree that there is nothing like homemade yoghurt :-) I’m looking forward to my next batch!

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SMc in Little Siagon, CA 20 June 2012 at 7:13 am

I can’t wait to try your modification of the traditional recipe.

I grew up making western (milk based) yogurt on a 4 cup yogurt plate. After the plate broke, I discovered other wayts to maintain the heat (115 F). My favorite item was the top of a good toaster oven, one that had fine adjustments below 150 F!

It’s simple enough…heat on low any quanity of any fat-percent milk to 180 F (scalding), and cool to 110 F. Add starter, pour into containers and allow to ferment in a hot water bath or on a toaster oven (which allows for LOTS of small containers!) or…if you are making it in a large container in ceramic crock, you need external heat source. In 8 hours, you should have delcious firm yogurt.

Da Ua is different! It is so creamy, so thick, and has a citrus (lemon like) topnote! It was so rich, my gfs worried about the calories! It is heaven on a smoking hot day, better than ice cream.

It drove me batty that the local shops did not have the ingredients listed (how can we calculate the calories without ingredients?). Years later…now they do…scm & water! Where does the citrus subnote come from? It is definitely not the “tart” from milk-based yogurt. For some reason, most shops have stopped making da ua.

I’ve tried making da ua yogurt from Sweetened Condensed Milk (scm). I’m glad someone described the hot water bath incubator. I haven’t had a toaster oven in years! And now, instead of making individual dishes of yogurt, I make ‘family sized’ containers!

I’ve tried it mixing scm with milk, even using half & half to get that incredibly white da ua color and richness. I was using ‘western’ scm, and have not reach the goal yet. And results of ‘thickness’ have varied, some have set up, some have set up on top but are loose in the bottom, some haven not set up at all (everything is sterilzed first). Most important: no pure white color, and no citrus topnote!

Is it the brand of scm? Like you, I’ve tried Nestle’s (the resulting yogurt tasted like the Nestle’s scm, were not creamy like da ua yogurt). I noticed other sites recommending Longevity or original Black & White scm (available in Asian markets). It appears to my tongue that Longevity is less sweet than B&W (my can says “Napa Original” and has images of Holsteins (black & white cows)), and both are less sweet than Nestle’s. Sugar may affect color, as Longevity’s looks a little lighter than the other two. And these are all “full fat” varieties, with the ingredients of ONLY milk and sugar. Low-fat & no-fat varieties have too many additives to consider using in making this delicacy!

I’m going to try it again tonight, just Longevity and water and starter. If it works, I’ll rejoice greatly! We’ll be doing the happy dance!

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eat, little bird 20 June 2012 at 10:01 am

You sound like a real yoghurt enthusiast! Thank you for sharing your thoughts here :-)

I think the sour note in the Vietnamese yoghurt essentially comes from the starter and the fermentation process. Most recipes which I researched were a variation of the ingredients which I have listed above.

The first few times I made it, I found it too sweet when using a whole can. So I’ve found that using half a can works well for me. But you are probably right that the brand of sweetened condensed milk could make a difference. I would be curious to know what brand is available in Vietnam, although I know that my mother used to make this yoghurt in Australia using Nestlé brand. And I would definitely only use the “full fat” variety – I don’t think the Vietnamese yoghurt found in Vietnam is made from any diet product!

I had hoped that making yoghurt in a yoghurt maker would take out a lot of the guess work that a water bath would require, but I quickly discovered that both methods require some experimentation to get the right taste and texture. The last time I made Vietnamese yoghurt (after this post), I left the yoghurt to ferment for about 9 hours and found that the texture was more similar to drinking yoghurt than something you could scoop easily with a spoon. But then I put a few bottles in the freezer and had the most beautiful frozen Vietnamese yoghurt! Now that is something certainly very refreshing on a hot summer day :-)

I look forward to hearing your results!

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SMc in Little Siagon, CA 20 June 2012 at 9:38 am

Okay, it is a water bath, in the oven. An old oven. With the light on. Whose temperature did not even register on the thermometer, even after a hour of being on.

I’ve never found the ‘oven light’ trick to work. Even when rising bread. If it is winter, we heat the oven a bit before putting in the bread to rise.

Thank you for the reference to Poh’s kitchen. It’s almost been a year since da ua disappered from the stores. If it is made at home and sold in public, the CA laws do not allow it. Anything sold must be made in a commercial kitchen!

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eat, little bird 20 June 2012 at 10:07 am

Oh dear! My oven is quite new and the light trick would certainly not work with mine. But the lowest setting in my oven is 50°C (115°F) which I recently found to be perfect for rising bread. I’m guessing it could work well for making yoghurt as well.

That’s a shame that it’s hard to find da ua in stores where you are – I guess health and safety regulations are there for a reason but hopefully someone will be able to produce products like da ua that meets the standards. I haven’t seen da ua where I live at all, although I do see homemade steamed buns and the like which someone seems to be churning out by the dozen at home and selling for a nice profit at my Asian grocer. Quite delicious :-)

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