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Nonna’s cover your eyes, because somewhere there is a can of sweetened condensed milk being poured into a bowl of whipped mascarpone and cream.
Adam Liaw has combined two wonderful things that naturally go hand in hand: Vietnam’s famous condensed milk-based iced coffee and the Italian coffee-flavoured layered dessert, tiramisu.
What makes Vietnamese iced coffee unique is the blend of dark roast beans with a little added cocoa, and butter or sugar present from the roasting process.
Vietnamese coffee is also mostly made with robusta beans which are stronger in flavour and caffeine content. They naturally contain a lot less fat and sugar than arabica beans which is why clarified butter and sugar are often added during the roasting process along with (sometimes) cocoa or vanilla. The beans are also roasted low and slow, giving the coffee its signature dark richness, high caffeine content and sweet scent.
Vietnamese coffee grounds can be found pretty readily at Asian grocers – lookout for the major export brand Trung Nguyen in red boxes. If you can’t find it, coffee with chicory or just regular brewed coffee will work just as well.
In the US, a common substitute for the aromatic flavours of a Vietnamese blend is using coffee blended with chicory, the root of a plant in the dandelion family that’s roasted and ground. In politically tumultuous times it was used to stretch out coffee supply, particularly in New Orleans. You can find chicory coffee at health food stores and certain supermarkets in Australia and it will make a noble substitute.
How to make Vietnamese coffee tiramisu
Place 450 ml thickened cream, one 250 g tub of mascarpone, and 200 ml of sweetened condensed milk in a bowl. Whip with an electric mixer for 5 minutes or until firm like whipped cream.
Brew 2 cups Vietnamese coffee and add 2 tbsp rum. Set out your tiramisu tray, a medium-sized clean roasting pan will do. Set up your dipping station with 500 g savoiardi biscuits, your whipped cream and coffee.
Dip the biscuits in the coffee and place in a layer, top with half the cream, then repeat. Dust with cocoa powder and set aside in the fridge for two hours or overnight.
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