Taro is a mildly sweet, very starchy tuber often used in Asian desserts. Its light, nutty flavor works especially well in ice cream, and cooking it releases so much starch that your ice cream won’t need any eggs.
Of course most taro ice creams don’t taste much like taro at all, since the pale, sticky tuber can be hell to work with and free-flowing purple powders are so widely available (wholesale, anyway). But in the home kitchen, taro ice cream made with real-deal taro is more than worth the small effort: the root’s delicately sweet, vanilla-coconut flavor is brought out well by dairy, and the texture is as creamy as can be.
You can find taro in most well-stocked Chinese markets. The tubers are sold in thick logs; look for moist cut edges and skin that’s smooth and slightly glossy, not wrinkled. Leftover tuber is great to cube and fry for a potato side dish or to simmer in a vegetable curry.
To wrangle your taro into submission, slice off the skin with a knife, grate it by hand or in a food processor, and fry it in a little butter to drive out moisture and build caramelized flavors. Then simmer it with cream, coconut milk (for added nuttiness), and sugar until the shreds fall apart and the liquid is thick and starchy. Blend it up, strain it, and chill until it’s cold enough to churn. No need to separate eggs or cook a custard—the taro’s high starch content adds all the texture insurance you need.
All that starch does mean that the ice cream freezes rock solid if you leave it overnight. But if you let it rest on the counter for a few minutes it’ll revert back to its scoopably soft self, and it’ll carry all the naturally sweet, pleasantly starchy taste of taro minus the typical tooth-aching dose of sugar. Now isn’t that better than some bright purple bubble tea made with cheap powder?
- YIELD:makes 1 quart
- ACTIVE TIME:1 hour
- TOTAL TIME:8 hours
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2/3 pound grated taro (about 2 cups, packed)
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 14-ounce can coconut milk
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1.In a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan, melt butter on medium heat. When butter has melted completely and foam has subsided, increase heat to high and add taro. Stir to coat with butter and cook until the taro turns slightly translucent, begins to color at the edges, and reduces in volume to a soft, starchy lump, about 5 minutes.
2.Use a wooden spoon to scrape any starchy bits off the bottom of the saucepan, then stir in cream, coconut milk, and sugar. Bring to a simmer and then reduce to very low heat. Cover and cook until taro is completely soft, about 20 minutes.
3.Transfer dairy mixture to a blender and carefully puree on high speed until very smooth, about 30 seconds. (To keep blender top from popping off, remove the plastic knob in the center of the lid and cover with a paper towel folded over several times.) Pour through a strainer into an airtight container, add salt to taste, and chill in refrigerator until very cold, at least 4 hours.
4.When ice cream base is cold, transfer to ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer ice cream to airtight container and chill in freezer at least 6 hours before serving. Let ice cream sit on counter for 5 minutes before scooping.
ice cream maker, blender