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Publication Date : 01-05-2012
You could beat this blistering summer heat by strapping a pair of ice packs on either side of your head, but a far more socially acceptable method would be to tuck into the Ice Cream Festival. And you wouldn't look like you borrowed a hat from Lady Gaga.
The Ice Cream Festival is now underway at Central Ram Indra in Bangkok and is floating among the chain's other branches through most of May.
You can have all the vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ice cream you want, but get festive instead and dare to try something new. Among the unusual concoctions on offer is papaya ice cream with sweet, salty and tangy salad toppings. There's also a sorbet made with not-quite-ripe mango and nam pla waan dipping sauce.
And "dare" is the operative word when it comes to tonkatsu ice cream. Yes, it involves a deep-fried pork cutlet.
More than 30 different purveyors of sweets are participating in the festival. We conducted thorough investigations of three of them but were soon too full to carry on.
It's siblings Panjarat and Navarat Wongnapapan who came up with the "som tam ice cream" with the salad ingredients. At Onemore Ice Cream, they just couldn't resist piling dried shrimp, hot chillies, shredded carrot and chopped guava on top of papaya sorbet. It's only 59 baht (US$1.91) and comes in a little terracotta bowl you can take away.
Meanwhile a miniature terracotta boat transports papaya ice cream topped with guava, pomelo, pineapple, kiwi, dragon fruit, carrot, roasted peanuts and sweet-and-salty sauce.
"We don't just create unusual flavours and unique presentations - good taste is always the first priority," says Panjarat. The shop's name is Onemore, she points out. "One is never enough."
The siblings - who've studied ice cream "cow-to-cone" at various institutes - came up with a new invention for the festival: mieng kham ice cream. You get all the usual mieng kham ingredients - lime, ginger, shallot, peanuts, dried shrimp and coconut wrapped in a green cha plu leaf with roasted-coconut sauce - but with ice cream! And it's great!
Over at i-maru, run by Foodie Plus, Marut Chalotorn has addressed the fundamental paradox of ice cream - that it's meant to cool you down in the heat but can't withstand the heat itself.
The ice cream in Marut's 15-inch Mochi Cream is made from Thai jasmine rice flour, soybeans and milk. You can pile it up as high as its name suggests and it will stay up there, even when hot chocolate is poured on top.
This is the kind of brainstorm that gets attention at the Thai Rice Foundation and the National Innovation Agency, which gave Marut the runner-up Rice Innovation Award last year. (The winning idea unfortunately had nothing to do with ice cream.)
The Mochi Cream has a texture similar to that of chilled pudding, with the chewiness of mochi, the Japanese rice-cake dough. It costs 25 to 30 baht ($.97) for a 70-gram cup and you can decorate it with brown sugar, soy powder, berries, corn butter, kiwi fruit or the aforementioned hot chocolate.
Marut explains that his dessert is fully half jasmine rice flour. "The ice cream can hold its form overnight, but the cold gradually dissipates.
"There are more options these days when it comes to rice grains, and this goodie will appeal to people who don't insist on straightforward plain rice."
Marut is the man behind the successful two-year-old brand i-maru, which offers egg- and breast-shaped ice cream. The wrapper - made from the same rubber they use to make baby pacifiers - serves as both mould and container.
Miluku is the "breast" ice cream, made with rich Hokkaido milk in 10 flavours, including Lemon Cheese, Japanese Melon, Banana Milk and Vanilla Butterscotch. You can suck one up for 39 or 49 baht ($1.5) . You just cut off the nipple (careful, it might spurt) and drink the contents.
Marut's 39 baht ($1.2) "eggs" hold tamago ice cream made with durian and mango. You "peel the egg" by gently rolling it to warm the surface and then tap it with a pointed stick. The rubber wrap pops off. Again, be prepared for a possible explosion if the ice cream has softened.
Feeling wholesomely nurtured, we waddled finally to Teppan Ice. The name on the kiosk is also the name of its only dish, a soymilk ice cream formed in a severely chilled skillet.
The milk is poured into a pan that's been cooled to minus-10 degrees and freezes in about two minutes. The idea is to reduce the cholesterol content, and the healthy ice cream gets even healthier with the toppings.
You can have Soymilk flavour, Ginger Soymik, Dango (like the Japanese dumpling), Wasabi and Green Tea, each 129 baht ($4). The toppings range from whipped cream and soybean powder to mochi, dango and a crispy rice cake.
The Vanilla Group, known for its chic Vanilla Cafe, runs Teppan Ice, but so far it has no permanent outlets of its own. Keep an eye out for a Teppan Ice booth at events showcasing frozen desserts and Japanese culture. Then, if you know at least 150 people willing to try some, you can ask about catering a party.
The Ice Cream Festival continues until May 7 at Central Ram Indra, then moves to Central Chaeng Wattana from May 11 to 17 and Central Pinklao from May 18 to 24. Visit www.Onemore-IceCream.com.