It seems that everyone loves a
smooth-textured custard, and the Vietnamese are no exception. This silken
sweet with its French roots provides a welcome refresher after a spicy
meal. Take extra care not to touch the sugar as it caramelizes - it is so
hot that it can burn you easily.
100 g (1/2 cup)
To make the caramel, heat the sugar in a
small, heavy saucepan over low heat, moving the pan and stirring the
sugar constantly until the sugar melts and brown.
Carefully and slowly stir the hot water
into the caramel; the mixture will bubble vigorously. Cook the mixture
over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar is thoroughly
dissolved and the caramel is thick and syrupy. Remove form the heat.
Spoon 1 tablespoon caramel into each of
six 125-g (4-oz) heatproof ramekins. Tilt the ramekin so the caramel
coats the bottom of the dish.
To make the custard, combine the milk,
sugar and vanilla in a mixing bowl and beat until the sugar dissolves.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating gently until well mixed. Carefully
pour the egg mixture into the ramekins.
To cook the custard, set the ramekins on a
rack in a large steamer and cook over simmering water for 45 minutes.
Alternately, set the ramekins in a large baking dish partially filled
with water and bake in a 180oC (350oF, gas mark 4)
oven for about 50 minutes. The custard is done when a toothpick comes
out clean. Remove from the heat and chill until firm.
To serve, run a knife around the inside
edge of the custard and turn out onto a dessert plate.