Taste Test: Kem

Taste Test: Kem

There is a milk shop around the corner from our house here in Ho Chi Minh City. Apparently, the white stuff is such an unusual commodity that it warrants its own store. It's big and blue, stocked with a dozen varieties of yogurts and milks. But no cheese, sadly. Not all dreams come true. What it DOES have is an extensive selection of ice cream, known locally as kem. This is not, in and of itself, remarkable. A milk shop that sells ice cream - so what? But the flavors! OH THE FLAVORS!  And they come in delightful single serving cups!

So one sticky afternoon, when the heat was really getting to me, I made an impulsive decision. It was time to try all the wacky Vietnamese ice cream flavors in the store.

Naturally, I bought chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. But from there, things got more exotic. I started off with Delicious Bean, or soybean flavor, which came in a delightful yellow package. It looked a little like lemon.

It didn't taste like lemon, though. In fact, it tasted like bland vanilla, but with a starchy texture. It was strange, but not offensive. I gave it a hearty 'meh.'

Next up, I tried Taro Passion. From what little I knew of this particular plant, it was a lot like sweet potatoes. I didn't hold out much hope for an ice cream version, but I gamely opened the little container. It came in pastel purple.

...and tasted like potato chips. I do not know how else to describe it. Potato chip ice cream. It was salty and sweet and freakin' awesome. It is easily my new favorite flavor, though I'm setting myself up for sadness, since I imagine it'll be hard to find outside Việt Nam. I had Erin try it, after which she absconded to the other side of the room with the rest of the container.

Next, I went for Tropical Coconut.

This was... underwhelming. It was like someone froze a mix of sweetened milk and coconut shavings. It wasn't offensive, but not something I'll probably try again.

Lastly, there was Durian Surprise. If you don't know durian, picture a fruit the size of a terrier, covered in spikes. When cut open, it smells like someone's bottom after a hot day, all sweaty and fermented. But that doesn't quite do the funk its true justice. It is the definition of sickly sweet, like fruit that has died and been forgotten in the gutter. Durian's nickname is Corpse Fruit.

And it's an odor that clings! It's been banned from Singapore's Rail System due to sheer offensiveness. I had no idea what durian tasted like, but fans (and there are far too many of those for comfort) describe it as "heavenly."

I opened the ice cream cup and the room instantly filled with a smell somewhere between rotten milk and horrific swamp ass. Even across the room, Erin's reaction was visceral and immediate. She made a horrified face and grabbed the camera from me. Because if I was going to eat something insane, she wanted a picture.

I am skeptical this will turn out well.
I am skeptical this will turn out well.

It tasted like sweet, sweet onions. But in ice cream form.

And that's really all that needs to be said about that.


PS: I'm serious about how much we loved taro ice cream. We went back and bought a full tub of the stuff. It's delicious.

PPS: Erin wants it known that Sam ate his entire cup of Durian ice cream.

PPPS: Sam wants it known that he is a proud adherent of the clean plate club, even when the plate contains things that make one want to curl into a little ball and sob quietly in the corner.