If green tea, Japan’s favorite traditional drink, can make desserts better, why not its most important seasoning, too…right? Right?!?
Ice cream has a mysterious power over us. It’s delicious enough that it’s almost possible to resist as-is, yet at the same time humanity is always looking for new toppings to spruce it up with.
Sometimes those additions work out well, and sometimes they don’t. So when our coworker Momo announced that she’d heard that vanilla ice cream tastes great with soy sauce poured over it, we were sort of skeptical. And when she said that to really unlock its deliciousness, you should add strips of seaweed too, we became very skeptical.
But hey, how bad can a dish be if it has ice cream as one of its three ingredients? Plus, Momo assured us that vanilla ice cream with soy sauce and seaweed is a regional delicacy in Hokkaido, Japan’s northern island that has a well-deserved reputation as a gourmet wonderland thanks to its abundant dairies, farmland, and coastline.
▼ The ingredients: vanilla ice cream, roasted seaweed, and soy sauce
So, we asked, are there any special, advanced culinary steps involved in the preparation? Nope, Momo told us. According to her online source, where she heard about this unorthodox dessert for the first time, all you have to do is put the seaweed and ice cream in a bowl, then drizzle on the soy sauce like it’s chocolate syrup.
We insisted that Momo be the first to try, since we figured that was both the polite and safe thing to do. So she took a bite, then let out a squeal of joy. “It’s sooooooo good!” she exclaimed, and it turns out there’s a certain method to this madness.
In Japan, a popular flavor for ice cream and other confectioneries is salty vanilla. The creaminess of the vanilla mellows out the harshness of the salt, and the salt helps to draw out more of the vanilla’s sweetness. That’s what was happening with Momo’s ice cream, and she even went so far as to say that the combination of cream and soy sauce felt a little like Japan-ified caramel.
However, she wasn’t nearly so crazy about the seaweed. The crisp texture didn’t really fit with the soft ice cream, and the strips of marine produce just felt like they were getting in the way of enjoying the rest of the dessert.
After watching Momo eat a few more bites, proving that she wasn’t faking her enthusiasm, some of our staff decided to sample the leftovers. Out of our four additional taste testers, one deemed it incredibly delicious, one tasty, and two okay.
Overall, that’s a lot better than we’d expected the dessert to fare, and Momo once again mentioned her admiration for the residents of Hokkaido for coming up with this imaginative flavor combination.
But then we realized, four of our staff members are actually from Hokkaido. So we asked them if they had fond memories of eating ice cream with soy sauce and seaweed, which they all answered the same way:
“I’ve never heard of anyone, ever, eating ice cream like this in Hokkaido.”
Puzzled, we asked Momo where she’d originally heard about this recipe. “On a soy sauce maker’s website” she told us, which puts the whole “Soy sauce ice cream is totally a thing in Hokkaido!” claim in serious doubt. Nonetheless, it wasn’t half-bad, so if you’re out of Hershey’s this might be worth a shot. If anything, it’s way better than sweet pastries with tuna filling.
[ Read in Japanese ]