Singapore's Ice Cream Sandwiches Find a New Home in Vietnam

More than a decade ago, I still remember quite vividly when my parents and I traveled to Singapore, and we happened upon an old Singaporean man on the street selling ice cream. But it wasn’t any old ice cream on cones. It was the ice cream sandwiches which, for anyone who has traveled to Singapore, was quite a popular dessert.

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The first time I took a bite of that ice cream sandwich, it felt like heaven especially after a couple of hours walking under the heat of the sun on a summer day in Singapore. I immediately loved the dessert, and I asked my parents for another one because I just couldn’t get enough of it.

I can only compare it to that time when I first tried McDonald’s Oreo Mcflurry, a day that changed my life forever. It was the first time I discovered the cookies and cream flavor for ice cream being a hot fudge sundae or regular vanilla on a cone guy before that. Since then, I never looked back. When I got a taste of that ice cream sandwich, it was etched into my memory.

I’ve seen ice cream sandwiches elsewhere, but they just couldn’t compare to Singapore’s ice cream sandwiches. The wafers, or bread, as well as the signature Magnolia ice cream, just have a distinct taste that will leave a lasting impression on you.

I haven’t been to Singapore since then, and so, I’m quite surprised to find out that the Singaporean government has been slowly phasing out street hawkers, which included the numerous Singaporean uncles who sold those ice cream sandwiches on Orchard Road. When once there were 30 ice cream hawkers, now there are only seven.

Thankfully, Singapore’s ice cream sandwiches have found a new home, 3,000 kilometers away in Vietnam where a couple have established stalls selling the signature ice cream sandwiches of Singapore. The store, Hawker Star, was founded by Thach Van Thang and his wife, Dang Thi Thanh Hoa, in May 2020, and has since grown to more than 20 outlets throughout Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, and some smaller provinces in Vietnam.

When initially they invested US$50,000, they now earn US$50,000 every month in revenues. Although Vietnam has its own version of ice cream sandwiches, the couple just felt that it lacked a certain punch and so turned to the Singapore treat, which they consider an upgrade to the their local dessert.

With the help of some Singaporean entrepreneurs, they were able to get the business idea off the ground, and with their family friend helping them to become the exclusive distributor of Magnolia’s ice cream, the business became a success. So much so that many competitors started to popping up trying to replicate their concept. However, for Thang and Hoa, they focused their competitive advantage on the quality of their product and service.

Even Singaporeans who have traveled to Vietnam and come across Hawker Star have given their stamp of approval to the ice cream sandwich. Vietnamese students who studied in Singapore also found it a pleasant surprise to see that Singapore’s ice cream sandwich can now be found at home.

Despite the dwindling numbers of ice cream hawkers in Singapore, it is quite a relief that the culture is being kept alive thousands of miles away from home. And I too would give anything just to have one more taste of that exquisite ice cream sandwich from all those years ago. One day soon perhaps, when I find myself walking down the streets of Ho Chi Minh City, I might just cross paths with that ice cream sandwich again.

(Image credit: Thach Van Thang)

Source: neatorama

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