Christina! (Photo by An Rong Xu)
German tourists with their frosty treats!
The Maneki Neko, a sculpture common in China believed to bring good luck to its owner. On the wall are photographs of both Phillip and Christina with Mayor Bloomberg.
Chocolate and Zen Butter.
When the sticky haze of summer has us at a melting point, nothing is more soothing than a frozen treat from the chinatown ice cream factory, located right in our neighborhood. The hole-in-the-wall ice cream shop has been hailed as one of the best in NYC by Citysearch, Zagat, the Village Voice, not to mention the ever-dependable grapevine. Christina Seid, who is active in the Chinatown community (check out her blog here !) and whose father Phillip founded the business almost thirty years ago, gave me the scoop over countless taste tests.
The menu behind the counter—where the “Exotic” flavors are Chocolate, Strawberry and Vanilla, and the “Regular” ones are Red Bean, Green Tea, Lychee, Pandan (Malaysia’s version of vanilla) and Zen Butter (toasted white sesame seeds in a silky peanut butter ice cream)—tends to elicit chuckles from customers. These clients, who range from teenagers in kooky glasses to French tourists to the “tons” of Filipino visitors, become devotees more often than not. In fact, the current Filipino ambassador insists on serving their ice cream at every one of his events.
After tasting the ice cream, this comes as no surprise. The flavor is rich and the texture is light but creamy on the palette. CICF boasts ultra-premium grade ice-cream, meaning it contains 16% butterfat. When asked to elaborate on the other kinds, Christina is quick to dismiss the competition. “I don’t know what that is because I don’t make that stuff—it’s all air.”
Perfectionism is the name of the game at CICF. Only the best ingredients—like real vanilla, fresh lychee and coconut—are used. The Green Tea strikes a perfect balance between earthy and sweet. Taro, a tropical root, tastes like a vanilla lollipop with a slightly nutty tinge. The grainy texture of the speckled Black Sesame flavor is an unusual experience on the tongue.
In case you thought ice cream was an American invention, Christina would beg to differ. “Ice cream is actually a Chinese invention from the Tang dynasty, which developed the early version as a sorbet.” Along with noodles, famed Italian merchant and explorer Marco Polo imported the concept to Italy, where it was developed into western gelato.
I decide to take a cue from the expert and leave with a cone of Almond Cookie, Christina’s favorite flavor and coincidentally, one of the store’s best-sellers. Fluffy, refreshing, sweet—yet not overpowering. The secret? They order their almond cookies from a specific bakery in the area. “It just doesn’t work with cookies from other places.” A painstakingly perfected recipe for heaven. Not a bad way to stay cool.