I’m unclear on why Thailand hasn’t taken over the world. The Thai people clearly have made the most important technological advancement of our generation: They’ve perfected a way of making fresh ice cream almost instantaneously. Soon, Lawrence residents will get to see for themselves as a Thai ice cream shop is coming to downtown.
Work is underway to open 10° F Thai Ice Cream at 726 Massachusetts St. where Creation Station previously was located. Achen Chen, who previously ran a Thai ice cream shop in Philadelphia, said he hopes to have the Lawrence shop open later this month.
A pretty solid language barrier existed between me and Chen, so I didn’t get a ton of details about plans for his Lawrence venture. But it doesn’t take too much searching on the Internet to see that Thai ice cream is becoming a dessert trend.
Here’s how it works: A Thai ice cream store has something that looks like a small flat-top griddle, but it actually is an extremely cold griddle. I’m guessing in this case 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Atop the cold griddle, you pour liquid ice cream mix — the stuff you normally would pour inside a traditional ice cream freezer. Once the mix hits the griddle, you use a pair of spatulas to start moving the mixture around, kind of like you would with a stir-fry dish.
The mix starts to freeze while you move it around. At this point, you could just be a dumb American and pile it into a ball and put the ice cream in a cup or cone. Or, you could do it the Thai way. That involves spreading the ice cream out flat on the griddle, and then using a spatula to scrape it up in a manner that the ice cream comes off the griddle in a roll. Some people say it looks like a sushi roll. As someone who steers clear of sushi, I think that description is an abomination. I prefer to say it looks more like a large taquito. (Combining Mexican food references and ice cream is perfectly acceptable, as Taco John’s Choco Taco proved several pounds ago.)
Here’s a video from the "Today" show that gives you a sense of how this all works.
My main takeaway from watching this is that for years people have told me to stop playing with my food, but evidently it is now OK for me to pay someone else to play with it. (It does look fun. I wonder if I got a counter top cold enough whether I could replicate it in the kitchen. It shouldn’t be a problem, as during the winter my wife keeps the thermostat at about 10 degrees.)
As you can see, the rolled ice cream allows for some pretty elaborate presentations. The process also allows for lots of ingredients — fruits, nuts, candy — to be mixed into the ice cream. In that regard, it is similar to what Cold Stone Creamery and other such ice cream shops offer.
I believe though that 10° F plans to offer some unique flavor combinations that are a bit traditional to Thailand. Chen told me that green tea would be one of the ingredients available. Indeed, Mr. Google tells me that green tea ice cream is a thing in Thailand and other parts of Asia. It sounded like some coffee-flavored ice creams also would be part of the mix.
Chen mentioned several other combinations, but I didn’t follow all of those. We’ll have to learn about those once the store opens. In the meantime, I’ve got to find my spatulas.