By Micheline Maynard @ Forbes
Bubble tea is so over. The cool new trend in Asian sweets is Thai rolled ice cream.
From Montreal to Brooklyn, Los Angeles to Atlanta, little ice cream parlors are drawing big crowds to order, and ogle, the making of the frozen treat.
Thai Rolled Ice Cream is just what it sounds like: little rolls of ice cream, about the size of a roll of quarters, that are packed into a cup, then topped with all manner of extras, such as toasted marshmallow, gummy bears, coconut and of course, hot fudge.
It generally sells for about $7 for a generous serving, and with its unusual appearance, is a dessert made for Instagram.
According to Paste Monthly, the sweet began shopping up across the United States last year. But it is a popular treat in Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia and the Philippines, where it is often sold by street vendors, Paste says.
The process takes about two minutes, and is just as much fun as the eating. Ice cream prep staff pour a cup of flavored milk-based liquid on to an extremely cold metal circle that looks like a big pizza pan (some places use dry ice to chill it, others run coolant underneath that plunges the temperature well below zero).
As the base freezes, it’s manipulated with little paddles, like kneading bread, and then spread out across the big circle. Once the ice cream evenly covers the circle, the prep staff pushes a spatula across it and turns strips of it into rolls.
I tried Thai rolled ice cream this week at Hi B3ar (pronounced “high bear”) in Allston, a neighborhood in Boston frequented by college students. It was one of two spots featured in the Boston Globe, but the shop apparently has drawn lots of curious customers since it opened in August.
Inside the tiny shop, a cluster of mostly young people waited patiently in a line that stretched back to the door to place their orders. They laughed and took photos of the staff at work while waiting for their orders. The shop offers 10 different flavors including green tea, chocolate, coffee, strawberry and mango.
I chose Oreo cookie (basically chocolate with an Oreo wafer smashed into it), and although I could have had unlimited toppings from a vast selection, went with chocolate sauce, strawberries, jimmies and a toasted marshmallow.
The ice cream was quite sweet, a notch in quality above soft serve, but not as tasty as home made ice cream from one of Boston’s many shops. I would certainly take friends there for the entertainment, though.
Paste has a list of places across the U.S. where you can find Thai Rolled Ice Cream. So even if it hasn’t yet arrived in your town, you can try it when you travel.
Given that the shops needn’t be very big, and the capital investment is probably low, it’s easy to imagine Thai Rolled Ice Cream expanding across the country in no time.