Metro, Food

Juicy Spot Cafe Brings Thai Ice Cream Rolls to Chinatown

Even temperatures as low as 20 degrees will not stop ice cream lovers from visiting the newly-opened Juicy Spot Cafe on 16 Tyler St. in Chinatown. On a frigid day, a customer might take multiple photos of her order from various angles to post on social media, embracing the saying, “Camera eats first.” Children often stick their faces up against the window that separates the customer from the counter to watch the ice cream being made. Lori Eng, the cafe’s owner, directs the whole operation from behind the counter, helping her employees by pouring the base onto the metal plates as the words “Hello! Welcome!” guide customers to the back of the store.

“We get way more customers in the summertime,” Eng said.  “But Boston has been definitely showing us love since we’ve been open.”

Freshly made on sub-zero anti-griddles that can get as cold as -22 degrees, the ice cream shop serves Thai ice cream rolls, also known as stir-fried ice cream. The process begins when the server pours a liquid ice-cream base onto the ice-cold metal plate. Juicy Spot Cafe offers four kinds of bases: original, yogurt, green tea, and chocolate.

Using a pair of wide spatulas, the server then chops up the fresh ingredients that will give the ice cream its flavor. The quick, thumping noise of metal clashing fills the air of the ice cream shop as the ingredients are completely blended with the creamy base. At Juicy Spot Cafe, a multitude of different flavors are available, including traditional favorites such as strawberry, Oreo, and mango. But the menu also includes more exotic ingredients such as kiwi, lychee, and papaya. The shop prides itself on introducing Asian ingredients—ones that are not easily found in America—to its customers. Displayed in a refrigerator in a corner of the shop is the dragon fruit, one of the store’s most popular ingredients. In addition to fruit flavors, Juicy Spot Cafe also offers flavors such as red bean and black sesame.

Once the mixture has been completely blended and crystallized, it is spread out onto the cold plate and scraped up to form rolls. Each cup includes five ice cream rolls with toppings placed in the center, like a flower with spirals as petals. The selection of toppings at Juicy Spot Cafe includes a long list of 31 items, including Asian favorites like mochi, grass jelly, and Pocky sticks. Some topping options overlap with the ingredients used for the flavor of the ice cream, allowing the same flavor to be experienced in two different kinds of textures. Finally, syrup is drizzled onto the ice cream. Syrup options include caramel, chocolate, condensed milk, cookie butter, Nutella, and raspberry. Whipped cream is also available free of charge.

Boston’s location, which opened on March 2 following two locations in New York City, currently offers a menu with 10 of Juicy Spot Cafe’s signature rolls. Eng and her team invented these various combinations. The options available in Boston include Chocolate Chip Espresso, Cookie Butter, Unique Dragon, Ferre-Roll Rocher, Watermelon Lychee, Good Crazy Matcha, Razzle Dazzle, and Cookies ’n‘ Cream. Even without the Create-Your-Own option that is available in New York, visitors at the ice cream shop can often be found straining their necks trying to decide which option to order. Throughout the store, it’s not uncommon to see customers ask one another what they got to help speed up the process of finding the tastiest treat.  

Two of the most popular orders at the store are the Black Sesame and the Fire Cracker. The Black Sesame is made with the original base with black sesame, and topped with black sesame seeds, grass jelly, mochi, and a condensed milk drizzle. In just one bite, a variety of flavors and textures flood the palate. The ice cream rolls contain a texture that is harder than the typical scoop of ice cream, preventing an immediate brain freeze as the required chewing delays the coldness. This unique texture mediates the softness of the grass jelly and the chewiness of the mochi. The rolls maintain this texture for a while before the distinct layers of the rolls begin to melt into one.

The Fire Cracker is made with a yogurt base with strawberry, topped with strawberry chunks, pop rock candy, and condensed milk drizzle. As the ice cream begins to melt in the mouth, the pop rock candy reveals itself and begins to jump around like tiny firecrackers. Buried in ice cream, the pop rock candy creates a tingly feeling that is less harsh on the mouth than eating the candy directly. The Fire Cracker encourages experimentation, as the effects of the pop rock candy vary with each bite depending on factors such as the melting speed and the amount of candy balls that one discovers in each bite. Chew or press the tongue down on the ice cream, and the popping occurs faster. It captures one’s curiosity and keeps one digging for the next spoonful to experience the popping again, so much that the freshly-chopped strawberry chunks are almost forgotten. The strawberry chunks are slightly frozen, blending perfectly with the cold temperature of the ice cream. The green-colored pop rock candy also adds a nice aesthetic touch to the pinkness of the strawberry ice cream and chunks.

Eng said the concept of Thai ice cream rolls is still unfamiliar to many eaters. In the future once everything gets settled down and people are more familiar with the concept, Eng hopes that the restaurant will continue across the country.

“Hopefully we can expand even larger, and not only just in New York City or in Boston, but also from the East Coast to the West Coast to even maybe to another country,” Eng said.

Featured Image by Sherry Hsiao / Heights Staff

March 16, 2017