Alec Torelli’s mission for gelato guides him to the Polar Ice shop in Bangkok.
By Alec Torelli
On the bottom floor of Terminal 21 mall in Bangkok, lies a vast sea of temptations. Fortunately, a mission for gelato guides me through the madness and toward Polar Ice.
A chain from Taiwan that makes a Thai-style shaved ice is not exactly what I had in mind, but the sign captures me with bright colors and odd pictured varieties. A recommended menu suggests favorite combinations of these eclectic mixtures.
At the top is a green tea snow with azuki beans, (a kind of red bean commonly eaten sweetened) and shaved almonds. I turn toward the clerk. “Do you serve ice cream?”
They do not. At Polar Ice, they offer their own idea. Instead of gelato, they make snow.
I learn that Thai Nam Kang Sai (shaved ice desserts) are very popular in Thailand. The shaved ice is placed in a bowl and covered with toppings.
The dessert is commonly made with a block of ice and a simple shaver, tins of condensed milk, as well as taro in black sticky rices, sweetened lotus root, young coconut and sticky rice triangles.
With unique flavors such as Milk, Roselle (a species of Hibiscus commonly used in tea), Plum and Green Tea, and toppings ranging from Longan (an extremely sweet, juicy and succulent fruit, similar to lychees) to Corn Flakes, choosing is overwhelming.
I ask for help. The girl, shy with a thick accent, sheepishly agrees with the poster.
I order green tea with azuki beans, but instead of the almonds, I opt for lychees.
I watch as she shaves the ice to produce a fluffy, frozen cotton candy textured cup. Then she takes a spoon and douses it with bean paste, the liquid variegating through the ice.
Finally, she adds the lychees.
The treat is best remembered for being different. It’s too bad it’s not as good as it is special.
The toppings overpower the soft, melting ice and the flavor of the base doesn’t overwhelm me. I’m left with the sensation: “happy I had it, but wouldn’t go back”.
That night, dinner at Le Siam Thai Fine Cuisine offers a chance for redemption. The food is great, but when it’s time for dessert, a Green Tea Ice Cream with Red Beans, they fell short.
The paste is like none we’ve tried, more of a confection jam than a glaze. The gelato, although it’s more like ice cream, is at least solid and frozen. I finish, but it won’t be mentioned again.
Two unique products. Two different styles. Unfortunately, only one conclusion.
Polar Ice, Terminal 21, Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok, 10110
Le Siam, 118 Sala Daeng Rd, Si Lom, Bang Rak, Bangkok 10500