From sea buckthorn sorbet to porcini mushroom custard and laksa leaf, novel ice cream flavours have been popping up at the end of a few fine meals. The possibilities are only limited by an ice cream maker or chef’s creativity.
After winning MasterChef Asia, the first big-ticket item Woo Wai Leong bought with his prize money was a Pacojet machine that delivers pure, natural flavours and aromas with every spin, and which he still uses to this day at Restaurant Ibid.
With it, he “started looking at flavours of ice cream people otherwise wouldn’t do” and ended up using Moutai after seeing Hong Kong restaurants using aged Shaoxing flavours. Because of the distilled Chinese liquor’s strong taste, a little bit goes a long way – giving the ice cream a funky, savoury white chocolate note.
Other unique flavours Woo has played around with include a hawthorn ice cream using Sanzha candy and Szechuan peppercorn oil. “Szechuan peppercorn has a bit of a lemongrass, citrusy fresh flavour, and then it hits you with the numbness”. Currently on the menu are crowd-pleasing mango pudding ice cream and oolong milk tea ice cream, which utilises a creamy tea with vanilla notes to top a homemade pineapple tart.
To provide a consummate experience at grilled meat specialty restaurant Butcher’s Block, chef Remy Lefebvre has incorporated a variety of wood-fire cooking techniques to create the flavours for his ice creams. An earthy, roasted Jerusalem artichoke ice cream topped with black truffle shavings sees the root vegetable imbued with a robust toastiness over the grill before being made into ice cream; a touch of white chocolate is added to provide a sweet and milky richness. For his smoked hay ice cream, Lefebvre smokes French hay and leaves it in milk for two hours before turning it into ice cream. Gluten-free and vegan diners can opt for an almond milk version.
Additionally, Lefebvre also makes booza, an Arab ice cream, which sees milk flavoured with orange blossoms and tempered with sahlab, a white starch powder that gives the ice cream a sticky and chewy texture. Dressed with pistachio crumbs, dehydrated yogurt and confit of orange, the booza is a delicious kaleidoscope of textures.
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Pomegranate and lemon verbena ice cream is served with the seasonal fruit tart at Butcher’s Block. Its roasted Jerusalem artichoke ice cream is topped with truffle shavings.
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Moutai ice cream with macerated strawberries and mango pudding ice cream at restaurant Ibid.
"Smoked hay ice cream from Butcher’s Block."
ROADS TO ROME
An ice cream machine isn’t the only path to the frozen treat.
01 THE OLD-SCHOOL WAY
An ice cream maker simultaneously slow-freezes the base mixture while constantly churning it. This aerates it and prevents the formation of large ice crystals. the device works great but takes up a lot of space.
02 GOING HIGH-TECH
T5he size of a countertop espresso machine, the pacojet enables restaurants to produce excellent ice cream in small batches. you have to freeze your ice cream base in the pacojet canister first. The machine’s proprietary blade then spins at over 2,000rpM as it slowly lowers itself into the canister, breaking up the frozen base into pieces so miniscule, it results in an extra-smooth product.
03 QUICK FREEZE
With your ice cream base being beaten in a metal mixing bowl, gradually pouring liquid nitrogen into the bowl mimics the freezing while churning process. The extreme cold of the liquid nitrogen ensures rapid freezing, and that ice cream bases with alcohol freeze better, too.
TEXT JOYCE HUANG PHOTOGRAPHY VERNON WONG