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In the Shop @ N*ICE POPS

Page_1 copy 2Summer is in full swing, and you’ll be glad you’re reading this because there’s a new kid (one year old!) on the block serving ice cold gourmet popsicles called N*ICE POPS.

I first came across their products at a Foodie pop-up event that I blogged about back in April, and knew I wanted to find out more. They launched in Summer 2014 and their world is only getting cooler (pun intended!).  Page_1 copyYesterday I visited their kitchen-slash-office space in Ap Lei Chau to interview founder Eddie Chan, so please dig in to the scoop below…

Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 12.42.00 pmBakker’s Bites (BBITES) : What goes into your pops?

Eddie Chan (EC) : When we first started, we were naïve thinking that we could get all local, all organic fruits in Hong Kong. It didn’t turn out to be the case.

We do try working with some local farms; one of the first flavours we did was an organic beetroot and shiso, both of which we can get locally.Page_5When we see things that are nice and available, we’ll try to get it but for the most part it’s a trip to the fruit market or the wet market. We also have a few international suppliers across South-East Asia, and we’re using some peaches right now from the States.

The whole local thing was nice, but it’s really hard to get anything consistently in Hong Kong – it’s not happening right now.Untitled 3BBITES : I’ve covered Sohofama on my blog before, which also tries to source local-organic whenever possible, but they told me it remains a challenge. Would you say it’s getting easier over time to source locally?

EC : For produce, like most vegetables, it’s actually not too terrible. But we’re more fruit-based, and that’s different.

BBITES : Really? So sourcing fruits is more difficult than vegetables?

EC : Yeah, we can get some local bananas for example, and we’ve done dragon fruit before, although we eventually found the red Malaysian ones to be nicer. There’s some stuff, but sometimes they’re not the best.

BBITES : What do you do when you’ve found something that’s local and organic, but the quality isn’t living up to what you imagined? Would you then source from elsewhere?

EC : Yeah, for sure. We do actually have organic strawberries here in Hong Kong, but last season we kind of skipped over our suppliers to get them from the States because they had a bad harvest and they were tiny and bitter – just not useable. It happens.Page_5 copyBBITES : Ok, so when you’ve found the right produce you bring them to this kitchen. Then, is it a matter of just blending them together for the popsicles, or do you precook some things for the recipes?

EC : We do both. We precook more with our winter flavours or cooler weather flavours. For instance, we caramelised the banana before we put it in the pop for this one really popular one that we had.

We did an applesauce for an apple crumble pop before, too. For things like that we’ll do a little bit of cooking, but for warm weather it’s mostly straightforward.Page_2BBITES : How do you choose which recipes are for cooler weather versus hot weather, does that have anything to do with the Chinese philosophy of “heaty” versus “cooling” foods?

EC : Not really, although we should look into that. It’s more seasonal stuff, like apple sauce with cinnamon, or banana cream pies…art 3BBITES : Tell me more about the artwork in your kitchen. It’s awesome!

EC : Thanks! Well, from the beginning it’s been the branding. We always thought – well it was just me back then – that it would be nice to associate the brand with more of a handmade look and feel versus a corporate, clean-cut look.

Everything we do here, we do by hand and we wanted to have that association with street art, illustration and graffiti. Being a fan of street art myself, I thought it would be a really good opportunity to bridge that gap where it’s food but we can tie it in with that bit of culture.UntitledThe designer that helped me with the initial branding, Tim Wong, who designed our logo, he introduced me to some local artists from the Hong Kong street art scene, and we just went off from there.

Within the studio there’s four different artists’ work, and we actually have an artist – Bao, who’s a finalist in this year’s Secret Walls competition – helping us paint a freezer today in our friend’s studio downstairs, so we can go check that out later if you want.Page_3BBITES : Yeah, I’d love to see that. Do you have artists create images for specific pops, or is it just the workspace or freezer units? How does the artwork come into being?

EC : What we want to do is give the artists free reign, within a certain boundary. We’ve had certain artist friends do something that’s a little more adult than we’d like – we love it, it’s great, but our target audience isn’t just the cool kids and the adults. We have children and families and things like that. artWith the ice pop girl, there’s just a hint of that – a little edgy and borderline, but it doesn’t step over that boundary. I mean we’re selling ice pops at the end of the day.art 2BBITES : Your customer base is across the board then?

EC : In some ways, but we do target adults more than kids – we’re trying to get involved in a lot of parties this summer, for example – although there are more kid-friendly flavours in our menu now.

Some of our competitors are coming out the woodworks now, and they’re targeting the cutesy kids and stuff and that’s fine, it’s a big market, but for us that’s never where we want to go with our image and not with our products.

What we’re offering is a little more sophisticated in terms of taste and palate, with things like our boozy pops where we’re doing our own signature cocktails and not just copying existing recipes.

pops

BBITES : My flatmate wanted me to ask this question: how many alcoholic pops would it take to get drunk?

EC : I always tell people this when they ask: you’ll probably get brain freeze, or not feel your jaw or tongue before you get wasted on our boozy pops.

There’s about 3.5% alcohol, like a light beer, so unless you’re a complete lightweight you’ll be fine. We want people to be able to taste it, and not be wondering, “where’s the alcohol in this?”Page_3 copyBBITES : How often do you switch up the recipes, is it quarterly?

EC: Generally quarterly, yes. Sometimes it’s performance-based too. Things like our mango pop with watermelon, lime juice and a sprinkle of paprika, that one sells really well so we kept it on our menu.

But, in general every season you can expect a full menu change and even within a season we introduce new ones – so every other month. Now that we have more retail partners, we’re going to do more exclusives, too.Untitled 3BBITES : Favourite pop at the moment?

EC : Surprisingly, a very light one. It’s our green apple-cucumber-iced tea.

BBITES : Favourite pop of all time?

EC : Ooh… of all time? That’s a tough one. It’s a toss up between two pops we don’t do anymore but might bring back: an Old Fashioned pop with fresh-squeezed orange juice, bitters and bourbon; and one with oven-charred pineapples, a dark rum and vegan caramel.

BBITES : That sounds soooooo good!!!!!!!!!!

EC : Yeah, that was a favourite and was running for a long time, but as good as it is – and we do have requests for it – we want to keep things fresh and new. Untitled 2BBITES : Final question: how do you get inspired for new recipes?

EC : The inspiration comes from just loving to eat and drink. Maybe sometimes a trip to the market, you’ll see a fruit and think, “hey, never thought of using that before!” Most of all, though? Being a glutton…

BBITES : Perfect end to the interview, thank you so much!Page_2 copy 2Check out N*ICE POPS’ website or facebook for information on where to find them…

Thanks for reading!

Bakker x

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