The first time I saw avocado in a savory dish, I suffered culture shock. In Vietnam, like elsewhere in Southeast Asia, avocados are used for sweets. Most often times, the flesh of this rich berry is combine with condensed milk, which amplifies the avocado flavor.
Though I grew up eating avocado out of hand with condensed milk spooned into the emptied bowl where the pit once sat, many Vietnamese and other Southeast Asian people, for that matter, make a delightful shake/smoothie with avocado. That's the most common preparation. In Vietnam, and avocado shake is calle d sinh tố bơ (butter fruit shake). Indonesians, who may add coffee or chocolate syrup, know it as es apokat. Filipinos prepare it as well, though they make avocado ice cream too. Avocado shakes are also popular in Brazil.
These shakes are on the menu of many Vietnamese American delis and cafe -- basically wherever you buy bánh mí sandwiches or go for phở noodle soup. They're extremely rich, so I like to divide them up among small glasses and share them. The thickness is practically pudding-like so use a spoon to enjoy it best.
Hass avocados are what most people know and its flesh is deliciously fatty and supple. But there are hundreds, if not thousands of avocado cultivars grown all over the world. To the right is a Hass still on the tree.
The French introduced avocados to Vietnam, which explains why in Vietnamese, avocados are called trái
bơ (pronounced "try buh"; trái means fruit, bơ is Viet
pidgin for beurre). In the name of
the shake, trái is omitted from the
name because we assume that it would be made from avocado and not butter. Below is an avocado display at a Saigon smoothie shop in the Dakao part of town.
Makes about about 2 1/4 cups, enough to serve 2 or 3
1 ripe medium avocado (6–8 ounces)
1 cup ice (8 ice cubes)
1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/4 to 1/2 cup milk
Scoop the avocado flesh into a blender. Add the remaining ingredients, starting out with the least amount of milk and puree until completely smooth. Taste and add additional milk, depending on the avocado type and if a thinner consistency is desired.
Some people use a combination of condensed milk (e.g., ¼ cup) and add sugar (1 to 2 tablespoons) to taste. It's really up to you.
The shake tastes better (the buttery, grassy avocado flavor becomes more pronounced) if it sits for a bit, say 10 to 15 minutes in the fridge. I’ve left it to sit in the fridge for 24 hours and it was okay. At 48 hours, there was discoloration at the top and the flavor dwindled a bit. had it sit for as long as 21/2 hours.
For the Indonesian version, Southeast Asian food expert and Saveur magazine Editor-in-Chief James Oseland tells me that Hershey’s syrup is the secret. Before the shake is poured
into a glass, the syrup is poured around the wall of the glass so that it drips
down. Pretty wild, huh?
For more on avocado history in America, peruse the cover story of the August/September 2007 issue of Saveur magazine.
Robyn Eckhardt's Eating Asia blog posting on avocados in Kuala Lumpur. Incidentally, Robyn told me that she suffered culture shock the first time she had avocado with condensed milk in Southeast Asia!