Man's Vantage Point + [vegan]

My favorite Thai basil ice cream
Thai basil ice cream
Thai basil ice cream

So, the very next day: Thai basil ice cream. I made it exactly the same way I made the other basil ice cream and could tell as soon as it started steeping in the hot soy milk, releasing coils of heavily anise-basil scented steam that this ice cream was going to be next level. And indeed, it tastes incredible. It's a cool, creamy distillation of the exquisite flavors of Thai basil, at once full of overwhelmingly gorgeous crisp flavors and softly aromatic earthy green notes, but all in balance like a Thai palace, delicate and impeccable, so beautiful its intricacies can't seem gaudy.

Curious if Thai basil would pair as well with strawberries as its Italian relative, I tried serving it on top of strawberries cooked on skewers over dying coals in the grill. Grilled strawberries are a perennial favorite around here in the summer. My favorite way to prepare them is with a quick marinade of brown sugar and brandy, but here it was just a fresh strawberry straight to the grill to warm and turn into a sweet, syrupy delicacy all on its own. I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised that the berry was a wonderful partner to Thai basil ice cream, but it was just so unexpectedly good and exciting that it made me want to make ice creams out of every herb in the garden, just to see what would happen.

I might have launched my full-fledged herbal ice cream experiments with rosemary ice cream (still on my list) but I got diverted by an interesting herbal discovery: laksa leaf. Here's the thing about laksa leaf, I'd never cooked with it before. I've eaten laksa leaf in laksa, the sort of national curry of Malaysia, a rich yellow coconut broth with rice noodles that is often eaten for breakfast, but I'd never seen it for sale in the States. Rather, I never knew that I'd seen it, though in fact I had under its various other names: Vietnamese mint and Vietnamese coriander, I just never knew it was all the same thing. So when I came into possession of "rau ram" and had to do culinary sleuthing to figure out what that was, it was a miraculous discovery to find that rau ram is a staple herb of Vietnamese cooking, hence the English references to it as Vietnamese mint and/or coriander, but it is also known as laksa leaf in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia where laksa is immensely popular.

Laksa leaf's English names, Vietnamese mint or Vietnamese coriander are apt given its primary culinary usage in Vietnam, and given that it tastes a little bit like both mint and coriander in equal measure and all at once, though it is not botanically related to either. It also has a deeply peppery spice to it which is heightened with cooking and a bright lemon scent which, unfortunately, seems to dampen with cooking. Riding high on the Thai basil ice cream, I thought the spicy edge, which I really like in sweets, combined with the minty, citrus tones of laksa would be great in ice cream. Long story short, it's not...exactly. Not that it's not good or compelling, it's just not great like the Thai basil ice cream. It's salvageable though. Laksa leaf ice cream can be made tastefully, I'm convinced. On this first try I think user error may have been partially to blame for the less-than-ideal outcome. Definitely too much laksa leaf for one and maybe not enough other stuff for two. In this batch I used a rich coconut milk base and palm sugar, both laksa ingredients, but maybe galangal, ginger or lemongrass, all of which are used in in the spice paste for laksa, would improve this ice cream.