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.
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.
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.