Local flavors are king in Gelato World Tour

The Gelato World Tour is back again for the second time and took place last weekend at the Marina Bay Sands Convention Center, Singapore.

Coordinated by the Carpigiani Gelato University, this event was set to spread the culture of gelato as a fresh artisan food product throughout the globe.

To be honest, prior to this event, my awareness of gelato was limited to Italian ice cream, a level of naivety that makes gelato artisans and enthusiasts cringe.

"Gelato is not ice cream; it's totally different in so many ways," said Valentina Righi, Public Relations and Communication Manager of Carpigiani Group.

Rather passionately, this beautiful lady explained that gelato is highly nutritious because it's high in protein, calcium and vitamin B2, in addition to containing only half the fat of typical industrial ice cream.

"And it's always made fresh daily," Righi added as her gelato-shaped earrings were dangling, framing her face.

Furthermore, during this event I had the opportunity to hear from Luciano Ferarri, the master trainer from Gelato University Carpigiani, as he also passionately discussed the differences between these two particular cold foods.

"There's technical components, such as those mentioned earlier, which include structure and calorie," Ferrari said. And he described the ideal gelato as dense but not hard, the consistency should be such that one would be able to spread it evenly on a slice of bread.

While talking about the philosophical aspect, Ferrari said that gelato also had an emotional quality where a scoop of gelato offered a smooth density, which was not heavy on your stomach, and would give one an experience similar to skydiving.

"And it always facinates me how gelato has been proven to be a 'fast learner', incorporating local aroma and flavors. It's so touchy how we can embrace and celebrate culture through gelato," Ferrari added.

Among the 16 highly selected gelato artisans within Asia-Pacific (inclusive of Australia and New Zealand), many were embracing the local aroma and flavors creatively, resulting in an array of unique gelato flavors.

Andre Soenjoto, a finalist from Surabaya, East Java, for example, tried to embrace Indonesia's long heritage of jamu (traditional herbal drinks) in his gelato by creating a product called Curcuma Gelato. Curcuma is a traditional root-plant that is famously known in Indonesian traditional jamu as a health elixir for boosting appetite.

His gelato was unexpectedly quite nice and tasty for many visitors, including myself, who actually disliked curcuma jamu as a child. A Singaporean visitor said he was intriqued to taste it as for him curcuma was rather an unusual ingredient.

Zarah Zaragoza-Manika from the Philippines, who later got Special Mention on People's Choice for her Mango Ube Symphony Gelato, was another example of a unique gelato taste. She claimed to sourced her mango from a local farm in the Philippines and mixed it with a specific purple yam from the Philippines as well.

Singapore-based gelato artisans were also promoting local flavors by creating, for example, the iconic Singapore sling cocktail in the form of gelato and an ice cendhol-inspired gelato.

The event, which was opened to the public for free, offered visitors the ability to sample all of the artisans' gelato and vote for their favourite. They were also welcome to follow free workshops provided by the Gelato University Carpigiani, which introduced an attractive video on the brief history of gelato and what gelato really is. The visitors could join a mini course on how to open a gelato shop and be successful gelato entrepreneurs. In addition, they were encouraged to attend educational workshops by IFI and Pregel, the world-leading gelato manufacturer of display cases for gelateria and the world's largest producer of ingredients for gelato, respectively.

On Sunday afternoon March 22, Sharon Tay with her gelato Good Ol' Days, which celebrates local ingredients of coconut milk and palm sugar to commemorate Singapore's 50th birthday, was crowned as the winner of the Asia-Pacific region.

She got the highest score, which was calculated from the people's vote (65 per cent), the technical jury (30 per cent) and fellow gelato artisans (5 per cent).

On the last day of Singapore's Gelato World Tour, the number of visitors reached its peak as lines formed in front of artisans' gelato stalls and visitors eagerly awaited the tastes of these artisan gelato delights, despite the rain and the cold from the air conditioning.