Biting Into Australia’s Fairy-Floss Ice Cream
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Black sesame and lychee ice cream wrapped in cotton candy, anyone?
This is an ice cream option you likely haven’t seen before: Baby blue swirls of sea salt soft-serve resting atop a fluffy cloud of fairy floss, with a sprinkle of popcorn and glazed marshmallows balanced on top. A summer treat that’s part edible, part art. And cone connoisseurs in its Australian birthplace can’t seem to get enough of it.
This sugar-filled creation is the brainchild of Jennifer Lam, and it’s the signature dish at Aqua S, the Sydney dessert parlor she opened this past January. Lam, who loves unusual flavors, came across sea salt ice cream during a trip to Japan. Enticed by the combo of chilled sweet ’n’ salty, she decided to cash out of her career as an accountant and opened the curious ice cream shop.
Some of the combos are just plain weird: black sesame and lychee, watermelon with cream soda.
What sets Aqua S apart? Its unusual offerings, starting with the soft-serve flavors. Yes, there are staples like dark chocolate and salted caramel, even biscotti and tiramisu. But there’s also taro. And tomato. The menu changes every week. Lam’s favorite flavor? Lemon tea and tofu. She uses blue food dye to make the sea salt option “more fun and interesting.” Once you’ve picked your fave flave, then come the topping options — like marshmallows (caramelized by brûlée torches while you wait), popping candy, popcorn and fairy floss (the Australian term for cotton candy). Lam says the fairy floss idea came to her one night in a dream. After dreaming of whipped sugar, she practiced placing it around cones till she found the perfect balance: Too little and it melts, too much and it loses its lightness.
Some of the combos are just plain weird: black sesame and lychee, watermelon with cream soda. The floss-ringed cones resemble something Arwen Evenstar might have held in Rivendell (yes, an ethereal LOTR reference). “[We’re] said to be the most Instagrammable dessert ever,” Lam says. A quick search of #fairyfloss and #aquas seems to back up that claim. Since its opening, Aqua S has gained more than 10,000 Instagram followers and 2,300 Facebook fans (who have posted mixed reviews). Yes, there are other unusual ice cream options out there — like the scoop of vanilla ice cream with edible 23-karat gold flakes ($817) in Dubai or the growing number of bars serving liquid nitrogen ice cream. Lam’s fairy floss, though, comes in at a more affordable $3 for soft-serve, with toppings at $1 each.
No surprise, but date food this is not. Depending on your toppings, you might be in for a sticky mess as you navigate the floss toward the soft-serve. And you can’t get around the fact that there’s a whole lot of sugar happening in that cone. Aubrey Sheiham, professor emeritus of dental public health at University College London, warns of the many health issues linked to sugar consumption, including tooth decay, cancer, obesity and diabetes. “That is why the World Cancer Research Fund are recommending taxing sugar,” she says. Which might a good revenue source, considering that the USDA reported that 130 pounds of sugar per capita was consumed by Americans in 2012, at an average of 35 teaspoons a day.
Lam says she’s not concerned about her sugary creations — as long as people brush their teeth afterward.