Dipping into the Best of Both Worlds
When you crave ice cream on a hot summer day, you probably don’t stop to ponder the importance of its structural integrity — but Liz Mok certainly does.
The 25-year-old is set to open the doors to Moo Shu Ice Cream & Kitchen by early July. The tiny shop, located at 477 Bank St., is brimming with delicious, two-bite-sized ice cream truffles.
“In design school, we had this saying, ‘Turn your flaws into your feature,’” says Mok, who holds a degree in industrial design. “If ice cream melts and refreezes, if it’s exposed to air, it can crystalize and taste stale. When you protect it with chocolate, that doesn’t happen, unless it melts completely; if it softens and refreezes it doesn’t lose its quality.”
Mok says the truffle format of her ice cream also encourages customers to take a chance on a new flavour. “I like the truffles because they’re small,” she says. “People are more willing to try the flavours because it’s only two bites.”
Each truffle is a flavour adventure; the entrepreneur’s creativity shines through in her one-of-a-kind flavour infusions. Mok frequently draws on her Cantonese heritage and memories of growing up in Richmond, B.C., when concocting new combinations.
“When I moved to Ottawa, I realized how much I took for granted the kinds of flavour profiles and ingredients that were so easily available to me in Richmond,” says Mok of the huge Asian community in the Vancouver suburb.
Currently, her Hong Kong Milk Tea truffle is her top seller. It boasts a secret blend of black and red teas, oversteeped and blended with evaporated milk for a hint of caramel.
“Chinese people love desserts, but they also hate it when it’s too sweet,” explains Mok. “I always find that when I go out for ice cream. I started making ice cream because I wanted to experiment with flavours that I used to eat a lot in Richmond and Hong Kong.”
She explains that in Chinese culture, there are two types of bitter — pronounced as “gum” and “fu” in Cantonese; the latter being what most people think of as bitter. “The bitterness in tea and chocolate is considered ‘gum,’ she says. That citrus, tannin-y flavour is what Chinese people love, it’s refreshing almost. That’s a really sought-after flavour in foods and desserts.”
The Good Morning Yuzu truffle profiles the Japanese lemon, yuzu, balanced with tannins from black tea. Mok says she’s constantly experimenting with new flavour infusions.
“I always have 50 pints in my freezer that I’m testing,” she says, adding that her skills have definitely improved after four years of making ice cream. “I have a better instinct now of when I should add a certain ingredient because I’ve done so many — most are a derivative of each other. I have the yuzu ice cream; now anytime we do a citrus, we just use the same method — we just switch out the fruit.”
It’s easy to see that Mok gets a thrill from finding new, unconventional combinations to tease the palate. “This week, we made a turmeric spice vegan ice cream,” she enthuses, explaining that the recipe uses golden milk — which is popular in Vancouver and Victoria right now. “It’s like a latte, but instead of coffee and cream it’s coconut milk, turmeric, cardamom, ginger and cinnamon.”
Mok plans to offer vegan ice cream at Moo Shu soon. Right now, she’s still gathering feedback on her recipe and tweaking it to perfection. Most of Moo Shu’s offerings have a cream-based ice cream, and Mok says it’s important to her to source local ingredients as much as possible. While she has been using milk from Hewitt's Dairy, Mok asys she plansto transition to organic dairy in the future.
"We want to make a big push to using certified-organic Ontario milk and cream only," says Mok. "It's a lot more expensive for us, but I think it aligns more with our values, and in the end, we will be a lot prouder of our business and our product if we become successful."
"Plus I swear organic milk and cream taste happier!" While not all her ingredients are organic, Mok feels the switch to organic dairy will make the most for her end product.
Moo Shu Ice Cream truffles are dipped in a 75 to 80 per cent cacao premium chocolate from Lindt, although Mok says she would love to collaborate with Ottawa-based Hummingbird in the future.
There’s a certain irony in Mok’s desire to blend Asian flavours with locally sourced supplies. “Growing up in Richmond, there wasn’t really an appreciation for local food and local ingredients,” she says, explaining that in Asian culture, people often think that something made locally is not as good as something made foreign. “It’s so opposite, people don’t want local — they want imported; here there is a huge love of local and I really like that.
“It’s kind of fun marrying these two ideas of the flavours in Asia, but not taking the whole love of imports.” After all, Moo Shu Ice cream seems to offer up the best of both worlds.
Moo Shu Ice Cream
477 Bank St., Ottawa, Ont.