The West have their Nutella, but here in Malaysia, we live and die by Milo.
While nowhere near as famous (or infamous?) as the brand synonymous with ‘hazelnut chocolate spread’, Milo is something that next to all Malaysians grew up with.
Before we knew what chocolate was, we knew Milo.
Right after weaning off our mother’s breastmilk, we subsisted on Milo.
To the question “Coffee or tea?”, the correct (and only) Malaysian response should be “Milo.”
We’d have Milo for breakfast alongside our kaya toast and runny quarter-boiled eggs, order it at the mamak for lunch, crack open a cold pack of premixed Milo right after our evening game of football, and sometimes even brew up a steamy mug of Milo to counter our midnight hunger pangs.
For those not in the loop, Milo is a malt chocolate drink most commonly sold in powder form. According to the instructions on its packet, it’s to be mixed and dissolved in hot water, in a ratio of 3 tablespoons of Milo to a mug of water. But Malaysians being Malaysians, we're terrible at sticking to rules and ideals, as we have our Milo any number of ways - hot, cold, ‘kau’ (concentrated), iced, iced with chunky clumps of undissolved powder, in a Milo Dinosaur (essentially a cold Milo with a sizeable mound of Milo powder heaped on top), mixed with Nescafe to make Nes-lo, and folded it into Indian rotis to make Roti Milo. Heck, I’ve even had spoonfuls of Milo powder straight from the tin itself sans water, and I'm sure I'm not the only Malaysian who did this as a kid.
Having lived in the UK for the better part of the past decade though, I’ve somewhat outgrew Milo. It’s sad really, because despite my purebred Malaysian upbringing, Milo just doesn't do it for me anymore. I'll now take a mediocre cup of coffee or tea over a mug of Milo (or any of its dozen variants) any day of the week. Part of me wants to rid myself of this boujie side (no doubt a result of being spoilt by all that damn good hot chocolate and Nutella in the UK), but part of me also knows I'd be insane to ever give real chocolate up.
So to strike a balance, I made the ultimate crossover chocolate spread – Milo-Nutella, a.k.a. Nutel-lo. Or Mi-tella, I suppose. I mean, since I’m now back in Malaysia and all, it’s only right to bring a bit of Milo back into my life.
I started off with a base Nutella recipe (courtesy of The Splendid Table), but replaced a part of the chocolate in it with Milo, and tweaked it some more to get the right texture. I must admit, it is a little grittier than the industrially-processed Nutella we're so in love with. (I suspect it's from the hazelnuts.) But apart from that, with the the absence of all that nasty palm oil and the mellow maltiness of Milo coming through, this has become a little cross-cultural monster of a chocolate spread!
A few more batches of this, and I might have Milo running through my veins again.
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makes roughly the equivalent of a 400g jar of Nutella.
200g hazelnuts, toasted
150g dark chocolate
2 tablespoons icing sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
30g neutral oil, use depending on your storage temperature (for cool climates, use all 30g; for warm climates like Malaysia, don't add any in)
- Toast the hazelnuts until nice, golden and aromatic. 10-15 minutes in a 160°C oven should do the trick. Let it cool down to room temperature.
- Melt the chocolate over a bain-marie or in the microwave (two to three 15-second bursts).
- In a blender, blend the toasted hazelnuts until it becomes a smooth paste. (You've made hazelnut butter! We-hey!) Add in the dark chocolate, icing sugar, milo, vanilla extract, salt, and the optional oil. Blend until smooth and homogeneous. You've made Mitella! Or Nutello. Or whatever you wanna call it.
- Store it in a jar, it'll keep well for a week, or three if it's refrigerated. (It'll set in the fridge as there are no artificial stabilisers here, but bring it to room temperature before use and it'll be all good!) Spread it on toast, make brownies with it, or eat it straight out of the jar!