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Yes, it's ice cream
Milksmith offers cool, sweet versions of sushi and bao dumplings for Asian Heritage Month
by Eva Wasney
Photo: Ruth Bonneville/ Free Press


Is it cake?

If you’ve been on the internet any time in the last decade you’ve probably been served at least one video of a knife cutting into an innocuous-looking food or household item only to reveal the realistic boot or hamburger or toilet paper roll was, in fact, an artfully decorated cake.

At Milksmith, “Is it ice cream?” is the common line of questioning.

The bubblegum-pink Corydon Avenue ice cream shop has been experimenting with the tradition of scoops and swirls since opening in 2019.

“We’re always trying to explore what ice cream can be. We (approach) ice cream like a medium for art,” says owner Siuleen Leibl.

In celebration of Asian Heritage Month, Milksmith has released two novelty menu items: a sweet sushi platter, complete with chocolate “soy sauce” and matcha “wasabi,” and bao dumplings served in a bamboo steamer basket.

While the smiley faces on the avocado and salmon rolls are a pretty good giveaway, the platter — which features the plastic grass garnish seen on most sushi orders and is served with chopsticks — is a convincing dupe for the real thing.

Leibl doesn’t have an artistic background and is not a classically trained ice cream connoisseur. What she does have is creative drive and a knack for out-of-the-box thinking.

“I think it’s a benefit,” she says of her lack of official credentials. “For us, it’s about exploring, learning all the rules and then figuring out what else can be done. A lot of the oopsies become the a-ha moments.”

Milksmith, which typically specializes in rolled ice cream, has participated in Le Burger Week with a chocolate ice cream patty served on a doughnut bun and has created frozen elote (corn cobs) for Cinco de Mayo.

This isn’t the first time Leibl has served sushi in her shop. The ice cream approximation has gone through several rounds of development.

“If you saw the rough draft, it was nothing compared to the final product. A lot of times it’s flops over flops over flops, but we’ll keep going back to it,” Leibl says.

At first, the sushi toppings were made of fondant and the rolls filled with cake. Version 2.0 instead features edible meringue figurines and more ice cream, which has proved a popular revision among customers.

Ahead of Asian Heritage Month, which runs through May, Leibl wanted to add another specialty item to the menu. As with most new creations, she consulted with her staff of seven and settled on ice cream bao dumplings as the ideal mix of nostalgia and cultural appreciation.

“My parents used to make them as a street vendor in Vietnam,” says Leibl, who is Chinese and Vietnamese.  “In my family, and in a lot of Asian cultures, learning how to pinch dumpling wrappers is something that you pass down to your kids, so for us, it’s about exposing more people to our (traditions).”


Bao dumplings are a dim sum staple that can be filled with all manner of savoury fillings. Milksmith’s frozen dessert version comes in three flavours: strawberry and yuzu, matcha, and ube.

“It’s nice for the younger generations to be introduced to those Asian flavours by making it fun and accessible,” she says.

The bao ice cream is a short-lived specialty — for good reason. It takes multiple days to make the mini masterpieces: one day for mixing and freezing the filling and another for mixing and moulding the vanilla ice cream exterior.

“It’s a labour of love,” Leibl says.

Twitter: @evawasney

Finding Inspiration in Every Turn

Reposted from the Winnipeg Free Press

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