Ice cream with sticky rice (kem xoi) is a popular Vietnamese street snack/dessert which hits the spot in terms of flavor, fragrance, and texture. All elements complement each other extremely well, and you will be surprised at how addictive it is.
What is Ice cream with sticky rice (Kem xoi)
I’m one of those Vietnamese people who adore this simple yet brilliant dessert. Teenagers and young adults can go crazy over sticky rice with ice cream during the hot and humid summer in Vietnam.
When Mr. Delightful Plate and I still lived in Vietnam, I had him take me to the ice cream shop every week to eat this. Don’t worry, it’s easy to make at home. It’s just that we were so used to being surrounded by tons of street food shops that the thought of making it at home never occurred to me back then.
The main elements of the dish are ice cream, sticky rice, and toasted coconut flakes. When standing alone, each component looks humble with not much to write about. However, when we combine them, we create a seriously delicious dessert. Rich and creamy ice cream, soft-chewy sticky rice infused with subtle fragrance from pandan leaves, and crunchy and nutty toasted coconut flakes.
How to make ice cream with sticky rice
Preparing and cooking sticky rice
The dessert is delicious with plain sticky rice, but I often add pandan leaves for more fragrance. We need to soak the sticky rice in pandan juice for 4 to 6 hours to color the rice as well as infuse it with the sweet smell from the leaves. I use frozen leaves (which can be found at Asian grocery stores), wash them, cut into shorter pieces and blend with water. My blender is a Vitamix so I only need to blend for about 5 seconds. It may take you longer depending on how strong your blender is.
After blending, we can use a fine strainer and cotton cloth to strain/squeeze out pandan juice. We soak the rice and then steam until it is soft. At that point, we can add coconut milk to make the rice even softer and richer.
If this sounds like a lot of work, you can skip the pandan juice part and just make plain steamed sticky rice. You can use any types of regular white sticky rice for this recipe.
Black sticky rice is a good alternative and the advantage of using black sticky rice is you don’t need to flavor it with pandan juice since it already has a strong aroma. If you want to try this recipe with black sticky rice, simply soak the rice for 4 to 6 hours in plain water and steam it. You can read more about black sticky rice in my Yogurt Black Sticky Rice Pudding recipe.
Choosing ice cream for kem xoi
The best ice cream for this recipe is coconut ice cream. I discovered ice cream made from coconut milk recently and I’m so happy with how good it tastes. Below is the coconut ice cream I use. It’s dairy-free, creamy and tasty.
Of course, you can use regular ice cream with coconut flavor. Vanilla ice cream would also work well. I also tried pairing the sticky rice with chocolate ice cream and the combination was pretty good.
Toasting coconut flakes
While the rice is being steamed, you can toast coconut flakes either in a pan or in the oven. Toasted coconut flakes amazingly take the dish to a higher level of deliciousness.
It’s common to use toasted coconut flakes as a topping in Vietnamese desserts to add extra flavor and crunchiness, such as in this Vietnamese avocado ice cream (kem bơ). They toast very quickly so use medium-low to medium heat and stir frequently. Don’t burn them, we just need them to be golden yellow.
This Vietnamese ice cream with sticky rice dessert is quick and easy to make with simple ingredients. I hope you will give it a try and I’d love to hear what you think about it.
Other sticky rice recipes you may want to try:
Ice Cream with Sticky Rice
- 1.5 oz frozen pandan leaves (6-7 leaves, optional)
- 1 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup sticky rice
- 3/16 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons canned coconut milk
- 1/3 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
- coconut ice cream (or regular ice cream with coconut or vanilla flavor)
- Wash panda leaves and cut into shorter pieces. Blend pandan leaves with water. Pour the mixture through a fine strainer or cotton cloth, strain/squeeze out pandan juice and discard pandan pulps.
- Wash sticky rice and soak in the pandan juice for 4 to 6 hours. It is fine to omit the pandan leaves and just soak the sticky rice in plain water.
- Remove sticky rice from pandan juice (and give it a quick rinse if you want). Mix salt into the rice. Steam rice for 15-18 minutes until soft. Add coconut milk, mix and continue steaming for another 5 minutes. After that, spread cooked rice onto a plate to cool.
- While steaming rice, place a pan over medium low-medium heat and toast coconut flakes for about 5 minutes or so, or until they turn golden yellow. Stir frequently while toasting. Set aside to cool. You can also toast them in the oven at 325F for 6-7 minutes.
- Place sticky rice in a serving bowl, top with ice cream and toasted coconut flakes and serve.