So, what is Korean-style soft serve anyway?
Seoul, like many megalopolises across Northeast Asia, is a well-oiled urban machine. Everything, from public transport and housing to food and entertainment is crafted, calculated, well-packaged, perfect – the epitome of productivity and efficiency. But Seoulites wanted something more – life wasn’t just about contributing to society, living wasn’t just about eating from a packet, made in a cold and mechanical factory. It was about living, enjoying the world as it was, natural and free.
To exploit this sentiment dubbed “well-being” (which you’d see all across Seoul these days), soft serve start-ups began riding the wave. Despite possessing some of the highest amounts of saturated fat, they marketed their products as “healthy”, “homemade”, “high quality” and “natural”. To emphasize the “well-being” sentiment, brands like Softree, Sweetruck, Milky Bee and Milkcow served honeycomb (which are mostly flavored wax, and not actual honeycombs) with the dessert. It was a powerful picture, particularly among Korean females as Korean beauty brands propagate honeycombs as a “super ingredient” against ageing and tanning. In addition, guerilla marketing strategies, such as deliberately “selling out” honeycombs, only boosted interest and sales.
Koreans were hooked, and unknowingly, getting fat as they ditched coffees for soft serves. With the allure of Korean pop culture, fans took the new craze like ducks to water as they dubbed the fad “Korean style soft serve”.
Maybe it’s the weather, or maybe it’s Singapore, but I’m averse to queues. I like to let the fad sit for a while, cool off, and if it’s still as popular after 6 months to a year, I think it warrants my attention. I had just come from a quick cardio workout at the gym – 20 minutes, I am trying to bulk up after all and too much running will just make me lean down – and was heading to the Under Armour store at Orchard Gateway to pick up some workout outfits when I passed by Honey Creme. There was no real queue, and I decided this was good a time as any other, so I went in.
Honey Creme is a Taiwanese brand which sells “Korean soft serve”. With a branding and marketing that is virtually identical to Korea’s Milkcow, it’s undoubtedly an opportunistic move, designed to steal a lead on Korean soft serve brands as they fight it out in Seoul. Unfortunately for Honey Creme, the brand which they’ve copied from is coming to Singapore, so it’s gonna get a little awkward.
I wanted to order the Honey Comb, but it was sold out (surprise, surprise) so I turned to the Caramel Popcorn. The texture of the ice cream was velvety. It wasn’t very sweet, but it was sweet enough for you to get a very obvious whiff of milk – it was almost like Macau steamed milk pudding, really. However, the Caramel Popcorn took me out of it entirely. The caramel popcorn was more than familiar, I knew exactly where it came from – Garett’s – and at the moment, the soft serve and ice cream were not in one voice, but fighting for attention.
Is it overrated? On the contrary, it’s a fair milk ice cream. Just don’t buy in into the healthy marketing. But for the price, I’d rather just do Lllaollao.