Freeze the Heat Away

unnamed (1) copy

unnamed (1) copy

As we wind down the last two weeks of summer (sniff, sniff), we’ll be beating the heat with DIY popsicles. Stock your fridge with these quick and easy recipes from Lucky Rice: Stories and Recipes from Night Markets, Feasts, and Family Tables and you’ll have deliciously cold treats on hand whenever you need a quick cool down.

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Matcha Green Tea Coconut Frozen Bars

makes 6 popsicles

If you’re a fan of Japanese green tea ice cream, try this dairy-free popsicle made with matcha, or green tea powder, which delivers a similar icy, milky burst of sweet and bitter. Traditional Japanese tea ceremonies center around the ritual preparation, serving, and drinking of matcha green tea, which—along with Zen Buddhism—was brought to Japan from China in the 12th century and continues to be popular in Zen monasteries (and nowadays way beyond Japan, thanks to the discovery of matcha’s culinary uses and health benefits). Matcha tea carries more inherent sweetness and flavor than other coarser-grade teas, but it is also intensely strong. For this frozen dessert, I use coconut milk, which isn’t traditional at all but is nonetheless a fun twist on an otherwise classic flavor pairing of green tea and sweetened red beans. Canned red beans (azuki) can be found either whole, coarsely mashed, or as a smooth paste.

INGREDIENTS:

1 tablespoon matcha powder

1 13.5-ounce can coconut milk

 ½ cup whole sweetened azuki beans, drained of any canned liquid

Holding a small fine-mesh sieve over a small bowl, use a wooden spatula to force the matcha powder through the sieve to break up any clumps. Whisk in ¼ cup hot water, stirring until the mixture is free of lumps. Add an additional cup of water, the coconut milk, and the sweetened red beans, and mix together until well combined. Pour the mixture into ice-pop molds and freeze for at least 5 hours.

NOTE: If you don’t have ice-pop molds, use 6-ounce plastic cups. After freezing your pops for about an hour, insert a wooden ice-pop stick or plastic spoon into each cup.

Thai Iced Tea Pops

makes 6 popsicles

Super-sweet and strong Thai iced tea, brewed with Ceylon tea and sweetened with condensed milk, can’t really get better . . . except when it’s turned into a frozen treat. At markets across Southeast Asia, the tea is “pulled” by pouring it back and forth at high heights—both to give the tea a thick frothy top and also to cool it down while thoroughly mixing it with the condensed milk. In Thailand, this drink is often sold “to go” in little plastic bags with straws, which sounds almost as fun as these frozen pops. The iced tea served in Thai restaurants derives its candy-like color from food coloring (oddly enough, the same shade of Number 6 yellow food dye formerly used in Kraft macaroni and cheese) to produce the bold hues that this tea is normally associated with. Just before serving, it is usually topped with evaporated milk, which gives the tea a creamy body. For popsicles, I like to pour the tea into molds almost to the top, then add a tablespoon or two of evaporated milk to create that creamy body.

INGREDIENTS:

6 black Ceylon tea bags, or ¹⁄³ cup loose tea leaves

1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

½ to ¾ cup evaporated milk (about half of a 12-ounce can)

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan. Add the tea bags or leaves, remove the pan from the heat, and steep for 5 minutes. Toss out the tea bags (or strain out and discard the leaves). Stir in the condensed milk. Pour this mixture into ice-pop molds until they are nearly filled to the top, and then top each one with a tablespoon or two of the evaporated milk. (The milk will settle into the molds as it freezes, creating a burst of milky whiteness.) Freeze until solid, at least 5 hours.

Vietnamese Iced Coffee Pops

makes 8 popsicles

If you’ve ever had Vietnamese iced coffee, usually made with coffee that has been individually brewed with a French drip filter, then you know it’s quite a contrast to the watered-down versions that often pass for iced coffee elsewhere. Unlike much of Asia, which has a stronger history of drinking tea, Vietnam developed its coffee habit (and industry as a key exporter of coffee from its many plantations in the central highlands) when it was a French colony during the 19th century. The Vietnamese who immigrated to Louisiana couldn’t find the coarse-ground French roast that they were accustomed to, so they used the bold coffee and chicory blend brought there by the Acadians. I find that the bitterness of the chicory is a great foil for the sweet condensed milk; the result is so thick and sticky that the coffee takes on a caramel-like body.

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups brewed strong coffee, preferably coffee-chicory blend or good French roast, room temperature (see Note)

1 cup sweetened condensed milk

1 cup heavy cream

In a pitcher, combine the coffee with the condensed milk and cream, and whisk until evenly blended. Divide the mixture among 8 half-cups, and freeze for at least 5 hours.

Note: You can use a traditional Vietnamese Phin filter, but a French press also works well. Just make sure the brew is strong.

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