In a fantastic twist of irony, our inaugural Dan Tat Monster post takes root in Macau! Next week we will write about Shenzhen, and the week after will take us farther afield, to Shanghai, then Inner Mongolia. We kid, we kid.
So, on this swelteringly hot and oppressively humid day, we turn your attention to Lai Kei, a historic ice cream
shop shoppe in Macau.
We popped by a few weeks ago and had a chat with Mr. Kong, current owner.
Lai Kei was established 70 years ago by Mr. Kong’s grandfather, who worked in an ice factory where he learned to make ice cream. The entrepreneurial man began making ice cream on his own, selling it out of a cart on the streets. (Mr. Kong himself sold ice cream out of a little basket in the streets when he was a young child).
Lai Kei came to its current location 40 years ago, and its interior has remained, for the most part, intact, save for several new coats of paint, and the installation of air conditioning in place of fans. This is actually fairly common in Macau, where the pace of change has been much slower than Hong Kong’s. While Hong Kong businesses feverishly updated their interiors to keep up with the latest trends, Macau didn’t give a fig. And we are thankful for that.
In the front of the shop is a display case, assembled by Mr. Kong’s father, filled with a nod to yesterday. On display we found old packaging, the original shop signage, cups, vintage ice cream scoops, receipts. (See below for more pics of that).
The packaging for the sweets is adorned with line drawings of pretty girls, drawn by Mr. Kong’s grandfather way back when. Small wonder that Mr. Kong himself is a designer by trade, having studied in California and working in advertising before taking on his family business.
Who, you ask, is the pretty girl on the box? The story shared within Mr. Kong’s family is that his grandfather, who had five sons, really wanted a daughter, so he drew the girl in hopes that his wife might bear one. She ended up with two! (We’re told that neither of them wore their hair in those pigtails.)
So how was the ice cream?
DELICIOUS! We had two fan favorites: an ice cream sandwich (strawberry, honeydew, and coconut) and some hong dow bings (red bean popsicles).
The ice cream sandwiches, at $10 each, remind us of the white mystery Airheads! Each ice cream sandwich is composed of three random flavors. There’s no hint on the packaging of what flavors lie within. Kids apparently love the surprise. We loved the surprise. That makes us kids. My favorite was the coconut.
The red bean popsicles sell for $5 each, and are packed with chewy beans.
Mr. Kong says the most popular ice cream flavors are coconut, mango, taro.
Lai Kei has seen generations pass through its doors. Mr. Kong remembers, as a child, seeing teenagers wooing each other at the very tables we were sitting at. Many couples came back married. Today they come back with children in tow, filling their little heads with nostalgic stories. Just as we fill yours!
Now for some more pics.
We’re really glad that places like Lai Kei exist.
Phone: (853) 2837 5781
Have you ever been? What other places feel like you’re stepping into a time machine?