If you’ve ever traveled to South Korea, you might be familiar with “banana milk.”
"Banana Milk is a ubiquitous childhood snack that I grew up with,” says Ji Hye Kim, chef and owner of Korean restaurant Miss Kim in Ann Arbor, MI. “It is very simply what the name conveys exactly, a banana-flavored milk.”
A sweet and flavorful mix that’s as refreshing a treat as one could want on a warm summer day, Kim figured banana milk might go over incredibly well as its own ice cream flavor, and she wasn’t wrong!
Kim teamed with Alexis Stand of Zingerman's Creamery to create a wonderful banana milk ice cream recipe, and she’s sharing that recipe with us today, so you can try it for yourself.
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As it turns out, banana milk is a storied favorite in South Korea, as historic as it is modern.
“Traditionally dairy cows were not common at all, and drinking milk was practically unheard of for most people,” Kim says of Korea’s history with the treat. “Just a short anecdote about serving milk to the royal family survives from the Joseon era."
Kim says that the Korean government started to promote milk consumption in the 1970s, but the public met the idea with resistance. Koreans thought the taste of cow's milk was unpleasant and strange, but when a food company decided to mix it with bananas—then an exotic fruit for the country—the sale of milk skyrocketed.
“I remember bananas being precious and sought after, especially by children,” Kim says. “I also remember that my mother did not always want to buy me the banana milk, because she felt that the addition of banana flavors was less than healthy. I took the inspiration from both and started making home-made banana milk for my restaurant Miss Kim. Our banana milk made with very ripe bananas is a world apart from a commercial one.
"From there, we took it to another level by working with Alexis of our sister business Zingerman's Creamery to turn it into gelato," Kim continues. "The result is a satisfying banana flavor with local milk, and none of the overly sweet fake banana flavor of commercially made ones. Hope you enjoy this lovely and creamy ice cream with the flavors of my childhood.”
If you’ve never had the pleasure of enjoying banana milk in the past, hurry and recreate this crowd-pleasing ice cream recipe and see what all the hype is about for yourself!
Photography by: Lisa Kim