Ice cream with a twist on tradition is returning to Toronto

Ice cream was a vehicle for confectioner Ed Wong to explore his identity as the son of Chinese immigrants. After a brief hiatus, his East and Southeast Asian flavours are returning to the city.

Wong’s [Ice Cream] was a place for me to explore a lot of my past, explore my roots, take something that was in my culture that was historical that fit my kind of life experience,” Wong told CTV News Toronto.

The closure of the four-year-old East Chinatown parlour took place just before Christmas. It differed to the cliché of pandemic-provoked closures, which made the decision that much harder. Instead of an absence of business, Wong was overwhelmed and overworked just as his lease was coming to an end.

At 52, when he opened the shop, he had imagined it would be a quiet neighbourhood spot where he would scoop ice cream for kids he would watch grow into adults. But within the first day or two, it was jam-packed.

In the final days, customers told Wong why they gravitated to his parlour. “They felt seen because of my ice cream,” Wong said. “They saw their culture in my ice cream and it helped them feel seen.”

To their relief, Wong is partnering with Basil Box to offer somewhere between two and 10 of his original flavours at most of their locations by mid-July. This season, Wong’s won’t be scooped. Instead, it will be packaged. But moving forward, it’s not out of the question, he says.

Wong’s Ice Cream (Wong’s Ice Cream Ltd.)

So far, only one flavour has been solidified on the list. “Definitely the black sesame salted duck egg,” Wong said.

For Wong, the flavour steeped mostly strongly in childhood memory is the Hong Kong milk tea, reminiscent of sipping his mother’s tea brimming with milk and sugar. In the early 1950s, his parents immigrated to Canada from China’s Guangdong province virtually penniless, knowing little English, he explained.

Wong’s Ice Cream (Wong’s Ice Cream Ltd.)

“Children of immigrants often feel like they have their feet in two different worlds. One of their parents that goes back to a place they weren’t born. And then of course, the culture in which they are in fact born and are influenced by. I’m very typical in that sense,” Wong said, nodding to his Scarborough upbringing in the ‘80s.

“Ice cream,” he said, “was an interesting way for me to blend the two together.  

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