From the streets of Southeast Asia to viral videos, rolled Thai-style ice cream has become the coolest frozen treat on the market today. The ice cream is made by pouring milk and other ingredients onto a metal plate – called an anti-griddle – as cold as -10°F, and chopping and stirring the mixture as it quickly freezes. It’s spread into a thin frozen layer, and then a pastry scraper or spatula pushes strips of the ice cream into rolls.
When Van Liu opened Snow Factory in the Delmar Loop last summer, Thai-style rolled ice cream was a novelty item. Three St. Louis-area locations later, he’s found his niche. Serving a variety of ice cream flavors, from Asian-inspired ones incorporating matcha, lychee and black sesame to trendy options such as unicorn (vanilla ice cream with rainbow sprinkles) and avocado, he pulls inspiration from his world travels and switches things up when new ideas strike. On top of the fun flavors, he thinks the rolled ice cream is popular because “it’s fun to watch [being made], delicious to eat and Instagrammable.” Topped with brightly colored fruit, whipped cream, syrups, cookies or gummy candies, the treats look as pretty as they are indulgent.
multiple locations, snowfactorystl.com
Curly Cups is owner Steven Trejo’s dream turned Kickstarter-funded reality in Olathe, Kansas. Trejo was inspired by a viral video of a street vendor making rolled ice cream in Thailand. “I remember like five years ago, there was a two-minute video of a man making this on a street corner,” he says. “I couldn’t believe what I had just watched.” He knew immediately that it was what he wanted to do for a living, too. Having worked in the restaurant industry for eight years, he opted for a simpler way to bring the trend to the Kansas City area: a catering cart for events. He will have about 12 flavors named after people who pledged to his Kickstarter campaign, and will offer customers a way to personalize their orders. Trejo served his first rolls in May, and plans to continue catering until he launches a food truck.
Olathe, Kansas, facebook.com/curlycups
Freezing Moo co-founders Tommy Tang and Truman Yeh saw potential in the Thai-style ice cream movement and wanted to bring it to the Kansas City area; they opened their own version in Overland Park, Kansas, in December. Tang and Yeh think the shop’s success is due in part to the fun and friendly environment and the delicious flavors, like the popular Cookie Monster with Oreos and chocolate sauce, and Tang’s favorite, Whole Latte Love, with coffee, cookies and caramel sauce. “It’s a fun experience,” Tang says. The visual element of seeing the frozen treat prepared isn’t the only fun aspect, either: The shop’s windows and walls are lined with Post-it notes from customers, as well as photos, which guests can print at a selfie station inside the shop. Business has been so great that Tang and Yeh have opened four locations (three in the Kansas City area and one in Fairfield, Connecticut), and Yeh says they’re planning a total of six stores by the end of the year.
multiple locations, freezingmoo.com