You've seen it made on TV. The addition of liquid nitrogen in the creation of ice cream, turning liquid custard into putty-textured frozen dessert within seconds. It is a cool technique to look at, but a shop dedicated only to the ice cream made with liquid nitrogen? There's a new shop opened in Tai Hang. Find out what we think about it below.
As part of the molecular gastronomic movement that rode the wave of food trend in the past decade, the involvement of liquid nitrogen in the creation of frozen dessert was no news. Yet to set up a shop just to serve curious souls this alternative ice cream making process' product is truly the first in Hong Kong. Novelty aside, this little ice cream shop intends to reinvent and redefine the conventional ice cream, all made in house and on the spot as one orders, featuring only 4 flavours that are not only single-flavoured ice cream (strawberry / chocolate / vanilla) but flavours that are dessert-inspired.
Enter Ronnie Cheng and his girlfriend Jenny. The couple who accidentally stumbled into London on a trip and after their first encounter of liquid-nitrogen-processed ice cream, they never went back and decided to start a business in Hong Kong selling exactly that. With Ronnie in charge of the business and Jenny on the flavors, the duo took inspiration from the local sweets preferences when it comes to flavours of their own ice creams, hence the birth of four core flavours -- mango, purple rice, sticky toffee pudding, and Vanilla with O cookies.
The novelty? Lab Made creates ice cream on the spot with the addition of liquid nitrogen. The seemingly magical process happens inside a mixer turning and churning the ice cream base as the staff pour in misty liquid nitrogen into the bowl. Some misty seconds later the ice cream making is complete, yielding a flash-frozen dessert the consistency of putty. The ice cream base, which is made with a combination of milk, cream, sugar, and egg yolks to stabilize has a good texture in itself. Yet when it comes to the Purple Rice flavour, the addition of cold purple rice at the end of the churning process leaves a gritty texture on the palate. The flash-chill on the tastebuds is an interesting sensation, but the taste tends to be mild even accounting for the numbed taste sensation of the low temperature of the ice cream. It doesn't help even when the ice cream has slightly thawed either, the Purple Rice flavour ice cream remains slightly thick and gummy, although the slight tickle of the sweet coconut milk added in brings in depth to the flavour.
The "Sticky Toffee Pudding" starts with vanilla ice cream with the addition of a tablet form of "date pudding" added in at the last minute and a toffee sauce to top. It brings resemblance to the British dessert sans the warm and fuzzy comfort food sensation. The flavour of toffee is pronounced and the texture is slightly less gooey than the purple rice.
It is important to have a fruit flavour loved by many. The 'Mango' is made differently. Instead of a custard ice cream base, this one is made with milk, cream, mango puree and cornstarch to thicken the mixture, contributing to a thinner, less cloying texture to the chilled product. The dominating mango flavour remains on the mango sauce that tops the ice cream at the end, as even with the addition of mango puree into the base one could only taste a faint sense of the tropical fruit. It's lighter than conventional ice cream but more better than mango-flavoured froyo.
The liquid-nitrogen created ice cream may be a concept that can create novelty to most, as we can see potential for Lab Made with its plan for more diverse varieties of flavours (up to 30 on rotation, including a later release of "Apple Crumble" and "Chinese custard buns"). It is crucial to stay consistent with the product's quality that spans out from flavour to texture, as we hope to see happen to this new ice cream shop.