Foodiva's Kitchen: Cajun-Vietnamese Dessert - Vietnamese Mint and Lemongrass Ice Creams in Praline Cookies, with Chocolate Chili Truffles

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Cajun-Vietnamese Dessert - Vietnamese Mint and Lemongrass Ice Creams in Praline Cookies, with Chocolate Chili Truffles

I'm pretty sure many of you did a double-take when you read my post title above. *What could she have been thinking?* No, I haven't completely lost my mind because this is the way I always think, especially when there is a cooking challenge involved. Our regular, monthly 5-Star Makeover Challenge hosted by the dynamic Lazaro and Natasha has been taken over by a special 5-Star Restaurant Wars Challenge, starting now!

How it works is that members of this online cooking group are divided into teams and each team would come up with their own restaurant name and thematic key ingredients for their dishes or choose to feature a regional cuisine. The teams have all pushed their creativity to the limit, starting with their restaurant names, names such The Pink Goat, Le Morel, Marishky, Ciao Fiore! and Raphanus.

I am teamed with the fearlessly-talented Trix and Jessica and together we are pleased to welcome you to our sunny, little restaurant: Voodoo!

As the name probably leads you to conclude, the type of cuisine we have chosen to feature is from Louisiana. It was a natural and easy choice because Jessica is the author of Cajunlicious, a gorgeous cookbook featuring all-Cajun recipes while Trix had gotten married in New Orleans (by a Voodoo Priestess, no less) and is majorly enamored of the place, its people and cuisine. So how do I fit into all this? Well, I'm Asian and there is an unusual twist to Louisianan cuisine in that in recent times, Vietnamese food and culture have started to hold sway over its menus, alongside the historical influences of the French, Spanish, English, Native Americans and African Cultures. If you've ever had Cajun-Vietnamese fusion dishes such as the delicious Cajun lemon-grass chicken, garlic shrimp noodles and crawfish eggrolls, you'll get where I'm coming from.

We have divided the task of producing the restaurant courses into three, with Jessica kicking off the above menu with her beautiful and refreshing appetizer using Creole tomatoes and Trix making her delicious, bad-ass main course (with a name I don't even know how to pronounce properly!).

Dessert fell into my very willing hands. I knew a lot about Vietnamese desserts and flavors but very little about Cajun desserts. After consulting my two knowledgable team mates, I decided to put my own spin on the famed New Orleans Praline Cookies and Creole Cream Cheese dessert. I couldn't produce my own Creole cream cheese but I can certainly make those praline cookies and some Asian-flavored ice creams, and that was how my cookie-encased Vietnamese mint and lemongrass ice creams came about. And since chili is used profusely in both Cajun and Vietnamese food, what better than to serve that up in the form of a beautiful parcel of chocolate truffle?

L to R: Appetizer, main course and dessert
(simply click on the above links to see the other posts)

The two most used herbs and flavorings in Vietnamese dishes are easily lemongrass and Vietnamese mint. Vietnamese mint is native to Southeast Asia and is also known as hot mint, laksa leaf, rau ram, Cambodian mint and Vietnamese coriander. It's not related to the mint group of herbs though, but is more closely related to buckwheat and rhubarb. It's a key ingredient for cooking laksa, as it provides the typical sweet fragrance to the spicy noodle dish. In Vietnamese cuisine, it is often served raw and as a salad (as with Pho). Flavor-wise the herb is strongly pungent, with powerful citrus and pepper overtones. The lemongrass and Vietnamese mint together added a fresh flavor and depth to this iced dessert, with their subversive savory elements working really well to lift the sweetness. 

Vietnamese mint and lemongrass from my garden

For the chocolate chili truffle, I added powdered Thai chili flakes to spike up the heat on the plate. A mere 1/4 teaspoon mixed into 1/2 a cup of ganache proved spicy enough for me, but if you're feeling adventurous, you might want to add a bit more! Well, you're already eating at Voodoo, so what have you go to lose?

Chocolate chili ganache balls immersed in melted chocolate

At Voodoo, we have attempted to represent the long and colorful history of Southern Louisiana through each of our dishes. The appetizer represents the cuisine as an integrated whole; the main course pays homage to African and Caribbean influences; and the dessert, containing Vietnamese flavors and ingredients, tells the story of an evolution in Creole cuisine. Since history is an ongoing phenomenon, you know it wouldn't just end here. If I choose to relocate to Louisiana someday, you would surely see my stamp on the food there too. :)

We hope you've enjoyed your 5-star dining experience at Voodoo. If you're someone who eats dessert first, remember to check out the other two fabulous courses by my fellow Culinary Priestesses here and here!

The round-up of the 5-Star Restaurant Wars restaurants and dishes can be found here.

Vietnamese Mint and Lemongrass Ice Creams in Praline Cookies, with Chocolate Chili Truffles

Lemongrass Ice Cream
4 lemongrass stalks
1 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/3 cup caster sugar
2 egg yolks

1. Cut the lemongrass stalks in half lengthwise (use only the white part in the middle, 4-6cm from the base) and bruise them with a rolling pin. Place in a saucepan, add the cream and coconut milk and bring to just below boiling point. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for about half an hour. Strain to remove the lemongrass.
2. Whisk the egg yolks in a bowl with the cornstarch until pale. Gradually add the cream mixture, whisking constantly.
3. Return mixture to the saucepan and heat gently, stirring until the custard thickens. Remove from the heat and leave to cool to room temperature.
4. Churn custard in an ice cream machine until thick (about 15-20 minutes). Pour into a flat-bottomed container and press down top with the back of a spoon to flatten. You need the ice cream to be about ½ inch thick.

Vietnamese Mint Ice Cream
1 cup chopped Vietnamese mint leaves
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup caster sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds

Follow the same method as for the lemongrass ice cream above, but add the black sesame seeds at the end of the churning process and before freezing completely.

Almond Praline Cookies
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 egg
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup sliced almonds

1. In a medium bowl, mix together butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla.
2. Gradually add flour and gently stir in almonds. Optional: Refrigerate dough for about 1 hour to make it easier to handle.
3. Preheat oven to 180C/375F. Roll dough out thinly, about 1/8 inch thick on a cookie tray lined with silpat or parchment paper. Slice into even rectangles using a pizza cutter and bake just until the edges begin to brown, about 8-10 minutes. Cool on a rack and store in an airtight container until ready to use.

Chocolate Chili Truffles
170g/6oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons butter, softened and diced
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 tsp Thai chilli powder (very hot!)
100g/3.5oz extra chocolate, melted and cooled

1. Combine chocolate and butter in a bowl.
2. Microwave cream on high heat for about 1 minute until bubbly. Pour over chocolate bowl and mix until smooth. Stir in the chili powder and leave to cool to room temperature. Cover and chill in the fridge for several hours or overnight until ganache is set.
3. Working quickly, scoop a teaspoon of ganache and roll in between your palms to form a small ball. Make several of these, place on a lined plate and return to the fridge to chill and harden again (about 30 minutes). 4. Spoon melted, cooled chocolate into flexible silicon molds. Gently place a truffle ball into the middle of the mold and top with more melted chocolate. Let the outer chocolate coat harden completely before turning out. Use immediately.

1. Slice the two ice creams into rectangular slabs slightly smaller than the dimension of the praline cookies. 
2. Work quickly and stack the ice cream and cookie layers in this order: cookie-lemongrass-cookie-Vietnamese mint-cookie-lemongrass-cookie. Turn the whole stack on its side so it’s standing upright and serve immediately with the chocolate chili truffles. Enjoy!


Jessica | Cajunlicious said...

You really did an amazing job on this dish! It was great working with both of you lovely ladies!

Maya Mohd said...

Thanks, Jessica. Likewise, I had such a fun time with both you and Trix that I now want to open up more restaurants with you guys! Lol.

Tina Bk said...

Yum-save me a reservation Maya! The virtual restaurant as well as the culinary fusion does sound like a lot of fun.
You did an amazing job on the fusion. Lots of passion and effort went into this one and it really does show. I am cheating though-looks like I have put dessert first. This is so tasty I may have to review it again! Popping over for the other two courses!

Tina Bk said...

PS:Please get this link out on Google, so I can share with my food blogger circle! I have not done it in hope that you will put that big enticing photo of yours out there.

FOODalogue said...

What a wonderfully creative dessert! Lots of big flavors and artful presentation.

the [sugar] apothecary said...

Always the adventurer, Maya! I LOVE lemongrass in savory foods, and I'm sure I could get into it in the form of ice cream. Those truffles are gorgeous! I like my chocolate spicy, too. Everything looks awesome!

Trix said...

This dessert surpassed even the high expectations I had!! Really, I am desperate to taste it. It was so awesome working with you both - who says women can't get along? ; ) I really wish we could open Voodoo.

Jen Laceda | Tartine and Apron Strings said...

WOW, this is professional quality dessert! how much forthis plate? hehe! I'd come to your resto anytime! Congrats, Jessica, Trix, and Maya! Well done!

Lisa said...

This looks so delicious!

Lilly said...

Maya you surprise me every time! All the courses look amazing!

And I’m jealous of your home grown lemon grass! It looks so fresh! Who said you don’t have any green fingers? I tried to grow it last year, but due to the very very cold winter it died. I’d like to grow some Vietnamese mint again this year, but haven’t been able to find it yet.

Laura (Tutti Dolci) said...

What a fun challenge, I especially like the chocolate chili truffles!

Lizzy said...

SO fabulous, Maya! Your creations are always so beautiful. And I am such a huge fan of you and your teammates! Congrats on a stunning collaboration!

Cher Rockwell said...

Maya! Amazing.
I would totally order this for dessert - when is the grand opening :-)

Anonymous said...

Very creative to do a Cajun-Vietnamese fusion, what a terrific looking dessert, nice!

Victoria said...

Always creative and beautiful! You really are a master with your ice cream machine :) Wonderful sweet ending to a meal at Voodoo!

Lisa {Authentic Suburban Gourmet } said...

Love this dinner party! Super creative. Lemongrass is such a wonderful flavor component and in ice cream - I need to make this!

Torviewtoronto said...

delicious looking post lovely ice cream

Maureen @ Orgasmic Chef said...

I'm not sure I could eat this and instantly be transported to "Lewsiana" but I'd certainly be in heaven. :)

Beth Michelle said...

First off, your plate is stunning! Such beautiful presentation. This dessert sounds so unique and interesting and looks mouthwatering! You did a fabulous job!!!

Nami | Just One Cookbook said...

Wow Maya! You always challenge yourself with your culinary talent and I enjoy this post. Everyone did a wonderful job! said...

Great work and I cannot wait to start receiving your posts.

Faith said...

I love the theme and menu you guys came up with! It's pretty cool how you all have ties to New Orleans. Your dessert looks amazing with the flavors you used...those truffles are calling my name! :)

Kathy said...

Looks fabulous, Maya!

Vicki Bensinger said...

What a sensational dessert! As always you manage to find a way to use ingredients to take your dish over the top.

I was suppose to be in the event this session but due to unforseen circumstances we had to dissolve our team.

Great job, Maya!

Maya Mohd said...

Thanks to everyone who came by and took the time to leave your comments. I've read every one of them and I truly appreciate your kind words. It was a really fun challenge and I'm looking forward to the next Restaurant Wars!

angela@spinachtiger said...

So much talented work has gone into this post. I love the addition of the chili truffles and the way you blended the cultures. said...

Wow, this is really creative and flavor packed. Love how you presented your dessert too.

Teresa said...

Fantastic project - you folks really know how to impress! Now, if only your restaurant was real and in Vancouver...

Lori Lynn said...

Hi Maya - this is so interesting, I was not familiar with Cajun/Vietnamese fusion, but I love the idea of it!

Your dessert sounds fabulous, I think you and Laz were on the same wavelength with ice cream and cookies! Even your plating is similar, that is crazy!

I just made a salmon dish with Vietnamese Mint last night, we took a trip to Little Saigon in Westminster, and I always buy plenty of exotic herbs there/ got Rau Ram too.

Congrats on a terrific Restaurant Wars entry!

Shannon said...

how unique! you definitely sold me on the combinations here, and i'd love to try this dessert :)

Magic of Spice said...

Incredible job Maya...what a delicious fusion of flavors! It looks and sounds simply fantastic!

Sandra M. said...

I don't know where to start...but i have to tell you that this looks fantastic! Love the ingredients that you used to make this tempting dessert!Have a great week ahead sweetie!!!!

Pacheco Patty said...

Love your contribution to this dinner party! Pinned;-)

Jenn Kendall said...

such a creative dessert - love it!

Jean (Lemons and Anchovies) said...

So much creativity here but I'm not surprised at all. :) What a bonus for all those already-perfect-on-their-own individual components to be served all together. Absolutely heavenly!

Lazaro Cooks said...

Fabulous. Glad to see someone else on the ice cream vibe. Love this dessert. Would gladly pay for it at any restaurant.


Spicie Foodie said...

Hi Maya,

You three girls did such a great job with the 5 Star challenge. If you it was an actual restaurant I'd be lining up with everyone else every single day. The ice cream looks so good!

Roxana GreenGirl {A little bit of everything} said...

I think you should consider opening your own restaurant. Have seen a couple of the recipes at the restaurant wars and yours is so pretty and eye-catching.

Krista said...

What a wonderful idea! Great combination of flavors!

Working london mummy said...

Great idea for a challenge, love it! and wonderful dessert

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