Yes, it’s a thing, and — lucky us! — the Seattle area has a really good place to try it.
I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM, we all scream for ice cream, but nobody was screaming for it to get an upgrade. If the idea of a new format involving time-consuming fancy-preparation footwork — with a jump in price to match — fills you with get-off-my-lawn, I understand. When I first heard about rolled ice cream, I rolled my eyes.
So what the hell is it? Said to originate in Thailand, rolled ice cream has become an intercontinental fad. Picture a crepe-making setup, with the round iron on which to spread the batter. Make the iron freezing cold instead of blistering hot. The batter is liquid ice cream base, just as regular ice cream starts out; it gets poured on. Then, with a Cold Stone Creamery-style two-handed clatter, the flavor gets mixed in — fresh strawberries, for instance, chop-chop-chopped and smashed into the liquid base. Then, quickly spread into a thin layer on the cold surface, it freezes almost instantaneously. An instrument like a paint-scraper is used to scrape the ice cream up, from one side of the cold iron to the other, in about 3-inch-long, cylindrical-shaped, spiral curls. Add some nice-looking toppings, and voilà: rolled ice cream. (If you’d like a visual, there are literally a million videos of ice cream being rolled.)
Does it taste better than our old friend unrolled ice cream? I thought it’d be airier in texture, feathery sweet-light. Not so much. It’s good! I mean, it’s ice cream. But the rolling doesn’t magically transform it.
SÜSU Rolled Ice Cream
Summer 2017 schedule
Be sure to check sususeattle.com before you go, as events sometimes cause schedule changes.
Sundays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Fremont Market, North 34th Street and Evanston Avenue (May-October).
Wednesdays 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., Kirkland Wednesday Market, Marina Park (June-September).
Fridays 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., Juanita Friday Market, Juanita Beach Park (June-September).
Saturdays 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.,South Lake Union Market, Ninth Avenue and Denny Way (May-September).
So why are people lining up for it, far and wide, waiting longer (sometimes a lot longer) and paying more (ditto)? Several factors are at play. First, never underestimate the human desire for novelty — nor, more nobly, humankind’s hopeful curiosity. (Can they make ice cream better?! I must help in the quest to find out!) Then there’s the sad fact that some people need an excuse to eat ice cream. (Ice cream in a fresh format — just to try it — doesn’t count! Maybe not the second time, either.) And the all-powerful internet loves the videos, a perpetual-motion hype-machine. (I can’t find any videos of cats eating rolled ice cream, however. Disappointing.) Likewise, rolled ice cream is an inordinately Instagrammable treat (44,317 posts right now and counting!).
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Regarding the internet and Instagram, though: Rolled ice cream is popular there for very human, nondigital reasons, namely because it’s oddly fascinating to watch it being made, and the end result is rather lovely. So we’re essentially talking about a little performance art plus a heightened aesthetic — that is, making ice cream prettier and more fun. Who cares if it tastes better?!
Well, guess what, Seattle and the Eastside? Our rolled ice cream does taste better, at least at the local mobile operation SÜSU. That’s because SÜSU makes great ice cream in general, with carefully sourced ingredients and ambitious, interesting flavors. Co-owner Katie Pohl points out that some other rolled-ice-cream outfits don’t even make their own base — they just pour on premade soft-serve mix. This is not remotely acceptable to co-owner/chef Muhammad Fairoz A. Rashed, who brings real-deal culinary chops to the rolled-ice-cream table. He’s worked in Michelin-starred restaurants in France; he’ll talk about inspiration for an ingredient combination coming from his time working with pastry chef Andrés Lara at the Regent Hotel Singapore.
SÜSU changes up its menu every two to three weeks. (They used to switch up more frequently but, Rashed says, not everyone got to try all the flavors they wanted to.) When I went to see them recently at the Kirkland Wednesday Market, they had the likes of The Hungry Goat, goat-cheese ice cream with lovely sweet-tart balsamic reduction plus a half-fig, and Durian King, with shortbread, mozzarella and a not-too-pungent hit of the famously stinky fruit. If that sounds too weird for you (or for the kids), never fear: Flavors like Strawberry ♥ Grape and S’mores Fun also await. Yes, it’s $7 a dish, but each one is “a work of art,” as one fan put it, and the servings are generous enough to share.
And watching Rashed and Pohl roll ice cream, greeting regulars (and their babies) by name, is a real summertime pleasure. Pohl says yes, she is getting weird muscles in her arms from the rolled-ice-cream workout. “I should either enter arm-wrestling competitions or get into rock climbing,” she says. Asked whether he ever gets tired of doing it, Rashed just smiles hugely and says, simply, “No.”
If you go, though, be prepared to wait. The first time I tried, at the Saturday South Lake Union Market, the line stretched so far into the distance of the adjoining park, I gave up. But their longest line to date (they started rolling last June) was at the S.L.U. Solstice Night Market. People waited more than two hours for SÜSU. “When it started raining,” Pohl says, “people just popped out their umbrellas.” By the time they got their rolled ice cream, were they still happy about it? “Yes!” she says.