By Adeline Ang - Wednesday, Feb 25, 2015
Sawadeeka! Remember how you’d beat the heat with some ice cream goodness served in a coconut husk after hours of bargain hunting at Chatuchak Market? Some have most probably heard but the rendition of this sweet treat can now be found at *Scape, where the Thai style gelato is now accompanied with a scoop of homemade sorbet, fresh coconut slices and toppings of your choice. Tuck into the sweet surprise and you will be surprised to discover the sweet story behind the found of Pong.
After 10 minute of confusing run around, I finally located Pong, a modest stall located just beside the entrance of *Scape that is nearest to McDonald’s. I was greeted immediately by Tay Yiling, the chirpy creative director of Pong before sitting down with Seah Ping Long, the founder of Pong to uncover the scoop behind Pong. As a graduate from Nanyang Business School, 27-year-old Mr. Seah had intended to be an accountant before his love for cold desserts took over. According to Mr. Seah, the inability of his dairy allergic father to enjoy the sweet treats and his Thai brother-in-law had also inspired the founding of Pong. Mr. Seah explains that he is the sole director of the company, that Pepzig, the nickname for his brother-in-law, contributed by inspiring him and by working full-time at Pong.
When asked about his gelato and sorbet, an excited Mr. Seah replies, “I spent one year researching on sorbets! I first started making them at home, coming up with my own dairy free sorbets, to find out which best complements the coconut gelato! I think I had trial-and-error-ed for about 1000 times before I succeeded.” Mr. Seah also stresses that Pong isn’t just a copy of the popular Chatuchuck dessert and that the homemade sorbet and various toppings were included to localize this treat. So what sets Pong apart from big players such as Ben & Jerry’s, Cold Stone, and direct competitor Co+Nut+Ink? “Our sorbets and ingredients are strictly homemade with no preservatives. Plus, they’re dairy free so everyone can enjoy them!”
So, what is it like being a young entrepreneur? Mr. Seah offers “It’s been really fun so far!” But after several moments, he recounts, ”There was this once I witnessed a middle-aged guy buying our gelato for his daughter before feeding his mother, who was probably too weak to move and that really touched me. Oh, I also love the faces of our customers when they receive the gelato, they resemble children excitedly receiving a teddy bear and that makes me happy.” But of course, it is not all fun and games where there were several obstacles to overcome. “The rental in Singapore is really high, but we were glad we got this spot at *Scape; at least it is still in town.” Mr. Seah had to tweak his recipes after employing bigger ice cream making machines. “The recipes had to be tweaked because the new machines were working at a faster rate, resulting in more air being churned into the sorbets. The sorbets became less sweet and their fruity flavors not as distinct, so that was the tough period.”
During the chat with the couple, I can’t help but notice how Mr. Seah would constantly make references to Ms. Tay, making statements such as “half the credit goes to her” and how “Pong wouldn’t have existed without her”. So here it is folks, the sweetness (besides the sorbets) that goes behind the founding of Pong. The couple first met in 2010, when Ms. Tay was in her freshman year at NTU and Mr. Seah in his second year. They remained acquaintances until they met again in 2013 at a school event before finally becoming a couple last year on 17th February 2014. When probed about his excellent memory, Mr. Seah laughs “I even got her permission to celebrate our anniversary and Valentine’s Day together!” As a recent graduate from the School of Art, Design and Media (ADM), Ms. Tay is thus responsible for the design and marketing of Pong. Ms Tay says of her decision to stay on at Pong “It is much more challenging to come up with your own brand as compared to working on something that has already exists.”
The dairy free gelato with sorbet in a coconut husk is also placed on top of a cup half-filled with coconut juice. Although the juice is meant to cleanse one’s palette before indulging in the dessert, Mr. Seah clarifies that it is still up to one’s preference when the juice should be drank. I’d personally say to drink the juice first, because after my indulgence, I could barely taste the sweetness of the refreshing juice despite the less sweet gelato and sorbet, something I found a waste. The sorbet tastes more like a gelato with its creamy texture.
The best seller would be the number 2 item on the menu, coconut gelato with sorbet, generous slices of coconut flesh and toppings of your choice. I’d say to have the mango sorbet with your gelato and top them off with crunchy peanuts, nata de coco and white bubbles for a more complete textural sensation. Do also keep a look out for their something new on their menu post Valentine’s Day!
*Scape 2 Orchard Link #02-18C
Opening Hours: 12.30pm-10pm Daily