Ice cream’s a science at the Gelato Lab

A busy night at the Gelato Lab
A busy night at the Gelato Lab. Photo Supplied

Ice cream’s a science at the Gelato Lab

Top-shelf ingredients and attention to detail set new Siem Reap gelato offering apart

In the cool back kitchen of Gelato Lab, which opened just off Pub Street in December, a couple of staff members carefully squeeze limes for the sorbet and chop fresh mint leaves for mint chocolate gelato. Meanwhile, a gleaming Cattabrigga Effe 6 quietly churns a vat of freezing milk and cream.

The movement breaks down the ice molecules and introduces air in a way that distinguishes gelato from standard ice-cream. The machine was originally designed in the 1920s, and hasn’t been bettered yet. 

“Our gelato machine is the Ferrari of gelato machines,” said co-owner Manfredi de Lucia in an interview at the small but busy cafe this week. “We’re making ice-cream like it was made 30 years ago.” 

From their staff, trained by a world-class Italian barista and similarly rated gelato maker, to their use of the finest Madagascan vanilla beans, nothing has been spared when it comes to technology or sourcing, de Lucia said.

“Everything that we do here is fresh. Everything that can be is organic, and there are no chemicals.”

Flavours include dragon fruit, mango and chocolate.
Flavours include dragon fruit, mango and chocolate. Photo Supplied

He and his business partner Alex Sutherland searched for the best chocolate they could find, picking one from Venezuela. The hazelnuts are organic Vietnamese, while the pistachios are from Italy. The fruits they use have all been selected from local organic farms, and the milk used for the gelato is organic. 

As for the coffee, De Lucia and Sutherland employed a top-10 world coffee connoisseur, whose identity they are keeping secret.

With her and her team, they tested 40 different roasts from organic farms across the world, from which they selected four: two blended and two single-origin brews from Thailand, Guatemala, Brazil and Ethopia.

“We’ll change them every three months or so,” said De Lucia. “It depends on the harvest. Our supplier is very, very picky.” The coffee is roasted in Bangkok or Chiang Mai, but they hope to soon do their own roasting in Siem Reap.

The range of sorbets reflects local flavours with lots of fruits, including mango and coconut, lime, dragon fruit, banana and passion fruit.

“We experimented with others like lychee and rambutan, but they didn’t work out so well,” said De Lucia. 

The gelatos, meanwhile, reflect more traditional Italian tastes, with chocolate, pistachio, vanilla, amaretto and caramel, among others. 

Mixing the two traditions, De Lucia said they hope to bring in a range of coconut milk-based gelato so people can enjoy those flavours dairy-free. They also plan on bringing in a range of semi-freddos, a sort of sorbet cake.

“Gelato is a real artisan product,” said De Lucia with pride. “We did a lot of homework to put this together.” 

Gelato Lab is located on Hospital Street, between the Old Market area and Pub Street.

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