When I first visited Thailand, I learned the ease of making Thai iced tea in cooking class. To my surprise, the concept consisted of tea flavored with various milk…and dye. DYE. The natural tea itself did contain a reddish hue. In fact, the comforting orangey red was completely artificial.
When I did return to the states, I immediately went to an Asian supermarket and acquired my very own bag of Thai iced tea. When I finished steeping the tea, I would sometimes throw the remains into my plants, letting it “compost”. To my horror, I discovered that it often stained the roots, the leaves into a red, just as my cooking teacher in Bangkok had warned us.
I asked a friend recently to recall his very unique experience of having Thai iced tea at a night market in Chumphon, a fishing village that we stopped at on our way to Ko Lanta from Bangkok:
“We couldn’t help ourselves, because the damn vendor was so happy. Sure, we’ll have Thai iced tea. Sure, we don’t know where the ice cubes came from. Sure, we’ll have it in a bag! And of course, it was damn delicious. Until the next morning. And of course, we were going on an 8 hour road trip. I asked John if he felt ok the next morning, and he said that he needed to go to the toilet.”
The point of the story is not the latter discomfort, but rather…the deliciousness of the tea, which is surrounded by so much sugar and cream…makes it a perfect selection for ice cream.
In my own recipe, I was running out of milk and cream. The result was a very rich ice cream that when served, my friends kept asking for more. Even with the sugar headaches they had. More please, sir!
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup Thai tea (the tea leaves)
1 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
4 egg yolks
In a medium pot, heat the milk until simmering over medium heat. Remove from heat. Steep Thai tea for at least an hour. Strain out the tea leaves. Strain out once more if any major leaves remain. Back in the medium pot, combine the steeped milk, cream, and sugar. Heat until simmering. Then turn off heat.
In a separate large bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Temper the egg yolks by pouring one cup at a time of the warmed mixture. Whisk after every cup. Return the contents into the pot. Then at medium heat while constantly stirring, put the pot at medium heat. The custard will thicken. Remove from heat when the mixture coats the back of a spoon.
Chill completely overnight in the refrigerator. Churn in an ice cream maker based on the manufacturer’s instructions.
Written in July 2012