If you have not had Vietnamese yogurt, and you are not lucky enough to live near a shop that sells it, do not despair! You can make Vietnamese yogurt with easy to find ingredients and it will taste just as authentic as the real deal. And the best part? It is so easy! If you can boil water, use a measuring cup, and your whisking skills are sharp, this yogurt can be yours with very little effort on your part.
Why would you want to make it? Because it is sweet and tangy, an unusually addictive taste sensation. I got hooked myself when my local banh mi place started stocking it in the refrigerated case. I was a little dubious about this nondescript, white yogurt, having felt betrayed by the black whiskey rice I tried from the same case a week before, but I made myself get over it after many assurances from the store's proprietor that it was good stuff. (But isn't that what he told me last week about the whiskey rice?, the little voice in my head protested.) I am so glad that he convinced me to try it!
The recipe is not my own. I gleaned it here from White on Rice Couple.
Since my most favorite cow milk is from Strauss, I used Strauss yogurt as the culture and Strauss whole milk. Mmmm. The organic sweetened condensed milk is from Trader Joe's. Good stuff.
I hate buying one trick kitchen gadgets (i.e. a yogurt maker), so I scrounged together a yogurt making system from things I already had around the house. My 1/2 pint canning jars were the perfect size for making yogurt and I knew they would not crack if placed in boiling water. I put the pre-yogurt mixture into 6 jars, placed all the jars into my insulated rice cooker, filled the cooker with boiling water that was the same level as the yogurt in the jars, and then closed the lid. The first time I made this, I thought I was being clever by leaving the rice cooker on "warm," but it was a bad idea because it kept the boiling water bath too hot for too long. I killed the yogurt culture, resulting in a sweet mixture with no tang. So, if you want to use a rice cooker for your water bath, do not plug it in!
I checked the yogurt 6 hours later, and it was not tangy enough yet, so I let it sit for a couple more hours until it reached the tanginess level I craved. It was done and delicious!
The Vietnamese store sells this yogurt for $1.50, and I made 6 containers for considerably less money. Plus, it is all organic, something I am sure that the Vietnamese yogurt I buy is not. Plus, the next time I make yogurt, I can just use one jar of the old stuff to make the new stuff, just like my other ferementation projects. How sweet is that?
I am going to start experimenting with different yogurt flavors soon. Blood oranges are in season right now, and I think that making plain yogurt and swirling in some blood orange simple syrup would be the best thing ever! This opens up so many possibilities...