Rolled Ice Cream: Tale of Two Cities

Rolled Ice Cream: Tale of Two Cities

Thai rolled ice cream has taken the world by storm. No sooner than I read about the rolled ice cream stores popping up around California, than I see not one but two THREE! (edited 8/23) rolled ice cream stores open up in Valencia, Spain.

Valencia! The city where kale is still newfangled.

Given the rapid pace of expansion, I wonder if rolled ice cream will be a trend that has the staying power of frozen yogurt and cupcakes, or will it be as fleeting as cronuts?

Coming in to San Diego, I had an extra-long layover at SFO, so I hopped into town and had dinner with the sister (burrito at Taqueria Cancun of course!), finished off with our first encounter with rolled ice cream at Steep Creamery & Tea in SOMA.

So for those who are also new to rolled ice cream, the liquid base is poured on a metal sheet cooled by liquid nitrogen.

Using palette knives, the base is then mixed about...

...and then spread in a thin layer where it is left to freeze. Then the rolling starts!

So how was it? A bit disappointing. The texture was rather stiff with a drying mouthfeel, kind of like what I would expect chilled, dry peanut butter to be like. What was telling was how little the ice cream melted, even after ten or more minutes at room temperature. Both the black sesame and matcha flavors showed the same unnerving behavior.

In San Diego, my dad was really excited to try rolled ice cream, so we went to Bing Haus on Convoy St. The interior was warmly decorated, and had a nice coffeehouse feeling.

This rolled ice cream was much better! We ordered the Thai iced tea and taro flavors, and the Taro was especially flavorful. Importantly, they had much more of a pleasing texture: creamy and smooth.

To top it off, a friendly customer gave us an order that the employees made by mistake, which he didn't want. Coffee - the third flavor that we were considering ordering in the beginning! You can see that just a few minutes after taking the last photo, the taro and Thai iced tea rolls are already starting to melt. You know, kind of like ice cream should?

So the lesson is that not all rolled ice cream is created equal. But even the better rolled ice cream at Bing Haus doesn't top the best ice cream or gelato out there. It's about on par with average regular ice cream, though it is indeed fun to see made, and makes for pretty pictures.


Steep Creamery & Tea: 270 Brannan St, San Francisco, CA 94107, USA

Bing Haus: 4425 Convoy St #216, San Diego, CA 92111, USA

San Diego Eats: Koon Thai

San Diego Eats: Koon Thai

San Diego Eats: Shan Xi Magic Kitchen

San Diego Eats: Shan Xi Magic Kitchen