There is nothing more rewarding than competing with a big blob of melting ice cream on a hot summer’s day.
I have fond memories of ice cream.
As a kid I waited for the ding-dong of the ice cream man’s bicycle bell after the beans and broccoli. At the age of eleven I got bribed with a Magnum to put a backpack on my back and do the Otter Trail. A year later I took another bribe for another hike. A Wimpy swirl of vanilla ice cream dipped in caramel was a favourite but it is also impossible to forget Chico, the Spur’s ice cream clown that only the birthday kid got while the rest had to eat their normal scoops with chocolate sauce and no imagination.
I have fond memories of ice cream.
My first Asian summer got me fanning myself like a menopausal ticking bomb on steroids. It was humid. And not Durban humid, oh no no no, it was more a case of I-think-I-just-melted-on-the-pavement humid. A few minutes outside resulted in the Niagara Falls on my back, the Victoria Falls on my face and the Tugela Falls trickling in powerful streams out of every pore. Luckily, every building, house, school and office was equipped with air-conditioning; unfortunately they waited for the I-think-I-just-died heatwave to switch it on.
On one fine sticky, sweltering and sweaty summer’s day my colleague handed me an ice cream. I was a mere minute away from death by humidity and grabbed the cold treasure with two clammy hands. The ice cream was covered in a green and yellow wrapper; I hastily ripped it open only to find something looking like a mielie playing peek-a-boo from the plastic. I flipped it over and there, on the cover in beautiful bold Korean letters it read: Corn Ice Cream.
The cone covered the whole ice cream and was shaped like a mielie, kitted out with kernels and fine lines on the side mimicking leaves. I flipped open the top half of the cone and saw traces of chocolate. Immediately I relaxed and silently high-fived the Koreans for their clever packaging while thinking “this is probably just normal vanilla ice cream in a mielie-shaped cone”.
The first bite was normal. It was just cone. The second bite was weird. A strong mielie taste set up camp in my mouth and on the other side of the office my colleague was happily licking away behind her computer screen.
My thoughts went from “ahh what a cute mielie-shaped cone” to thinking “damn it Koreans, mielie-flavoured ice cream, what were you thinking”.
When I got to the third bite I felt a hard bit in my mouth. It was a kernel. I looked down and another kernel peeked out from my creamy corn ice cream. There was a mieliepit in my ice cream and a mieliepit in my mouth.
My colleague gave me that “mmm delicious” look and I quietly licked away with a forced smile; one kernel after the other.
I quickly learned that corn is a popular little add-on in Asia; on pizzas, on bread, on pumpkin. I got so used to it that when my coconut ice cream in Malaysia was topped with nuts and corn I actually had my own “mmm delicious” look on my face while other tourists flicked the yellow bits to the side.
But no corn or any weird bit could ever prepare me for Snow King; an ice cream shop in Taipei known for its weird flavours since 1947.
Corn-flavoured ice cream was a joke compared to what Snow King offered.
The menu was beautifully translated into English and offered a variety of flavours. Strawberry looked delicious, lotus seed was interesting, green tea was normal and chilli or wasabi took an adventurous turn. But then, on the other side of the menu things like Sesame Oil Chicken, Pig Knuckle and Pig Floss screamed “I dare you, try my”.
So I did.
I got a scoop of normal and a scoop of completely insane; Chrysanthemum Tea and Sesame Oil Chicken.
The tea flavoured ice cream had a soft gentle taste but then came a spoonful of sesame oil chicken, a spoonful I still regret to this day.
I went through the five stages of ice cream grief in a matter of seconds; denial (this didn’t happen, did it?), anger (are they trying to ruin ice cream for everyone?), bargaining (maybe I just got a bad batch), depression (I never want to eat ice cream again) and acceptance (it was a spoonful of insane, deal with it).
The Sesame Oil Chicken ice cream was salty; it had bits of ginger and chicken in it and it tasted like death. It was basically death in a cup, death by scoop, death by Snow King; vanilla ice cream with chopped up bits, some sesame oil and the entire sea of China’s salt.
Behind the counter an old Taiwanese lady gave me that “mmm delicious” look.
And with the utmost respect I pulled an ugly face and shook my head, “no”.
My Taiwanese friend played interpreter and said: “She says it is really good for your health”.
“No, that’s water. Water is really good for your health”, I responded and pushed the ice cream nightmare to the side of the table.
“Please, ask her if I may get a glass of water”
Anje Rautenbach is the writer behind the blog Going Somewhere Slowly, find her Facebook,Twitter or on Instagram!