Green Mango with Bagoong?! What?!
We managed to scrape our jaws off the floor long enough to head over to Podium to try it. And we surprised ourselves by loving it—really loving it. The green mango sorbet and the warm bagoong hits your mouth in a crazy explosion of textures and flavors.
You have to try it.
Super spoke to Sebastian’s owner and super sorbetero Ian Carandang about his latest frozen concoction.
We’re huge fans of your Sapin-Sapin and Champorado ice cream… but Green Mango and Bagoong sorbet? What is this sorcery?
It’s a green mango sorbet made with fresh fruit and just a little sugar for texture. It’s 100% dairy-free. I decided to go with a sorbet to extract the most intense flavor possible. But it’s as smooth and creamy to the palate as any ice cream. We top the sorbet with a special type of bagoong alamang that is much sweeter and mellower in flavor than your normal varieties. It pairs well with the green mango, skirting the line between savory and sweet. We heat the bagoong up in the microwave to enhance the flavor, also giving it a wonderful aroma, before adding it on top of the sorbet. We get that nice temperature contrast—like an evil hot fudge sundae.
Why did you decide to create this flavor?
I saw a recipe for olive oil ice cream in David Lebovitz’s cookbook The Perfect Scoop. I figured, if the technique worked with olive oil, why not bagoong, since they were both oil-based ingredients. Of course, I forgot to consider that while olives are actually a fruit, bagoong is made from shrimp, so it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that while olive oil ice cream had a light fruity flavor, bagoong ice cream tasted like… fermented shrimp. I immediately tossed out that batch after one spoonful.
Is it true that bagoong has been one of your biggest frustrations?
I’m very Type-A, all of my friends know that I hate to give up, and will only do so after a long and protracted battle. Last year, Reggie Aspiras interviewed me about my Sapin-Sapin Ice Cream and I told her about the bagoong debacle. What ended up happening was that the headline ‘Bagoong Ice Cream’ became one of the top results in Google if you search for Sebastian’s Ice Cream. In the feature, I called it “the absolute worst flavor I’ve ever done!” But that didn’t stop several researchers from certain TV networks from calling me about it and asking me to make a batch for them to feature on their program.
Now, if they had actually read the article all the way through, why the hell would anyone ask me if I would be interested in showing how effectively I can make someone throw up?
I guess now that I’ve finally made something actually palatable with bagoong, if anyone asks me about “bagoong ice cream” again, I will have something to show them.
What was your creative process like? Did it take a lot of trial and error? How long did it take you to perfect it?
It started off with me just wanting to work with green mango. I already had a ripe mango sorbet, and I had just learned a new technique where I could keep the texture smooth without adding too much sugar (which prevents ice crystallization). I was lucky enough to get it right on the first try. The flavor was bright, tart and puckeringly sour, but still smooth and creamy on the tongue.
I immediately remembered I still had some leftover bagoong from my previous failed experiment. I grabbed the jar, heated it up in the microwave and spooned it over the sorbet. When I put it in my mouth I knew instantly that it worked. And really, there was no reason it shouldn’t, I didn’t invent the flavor combination, it’s literally green mangoes with bagoong, just in a re-imagined form.
But while I knew it was good, I still didn’t necessarily think it would sell. While I knew the flavor tasted great, I was still a little hesitant to actually bring it out. As luck would have it, Master Chef Ed Quimson (of TRES Cuisine in SM North Edsa) was having a small potluck dinner party in his house that very night. I decided to bring a small pint of it to the party just to get some feedback on the dish. The reception was overwhelmingly positive, and for me that settled it. If a gastronome of Ed’s caliber thought it was good, I knew I might have something special.
How’s the feedback?
It’s been nothing short of amazing. Even though the ad had stated that it would be available on Friday, there were people already asking about it at the shops on Monday, when I posted the ad on our Facebook fan page. That little ad has become our most viewed post ever, with a total of 592 shares and 10,902 page views at last check.
When Friday finally came, half the tub was gone in the first 5 hours at our Katipunan branch. I saw one guy just walk straight up to the counter and ordered it. He had apparently been waiting for it since Monday. And after he was done, he called someone, telling them he thought it was really good, which made me really happy. The whole tub was gone by early Saturday. We brought two more tubs on Sunday and by Monday evening we were sold out again. This is unprecedented in our sales history and the kitchen has been scrambling to catch up ever since.
Because we offer free sampling of all our flavors (anyone who is merely curious about it can taste it without having to commit to purchasing a whole scoop), I’m proud to say that every sale of it was made by someone who knew what it tasted like and wanted to get a whole serving.
Can people buy it in pints as well?
Yes! You can buy a hand-packed pint for P420. Each pint has approximately 3.5 scoops worth of sorbet and it comes with sweet bagoong. You can get it at the shops or order it for pickup at our kitchen at 426-6935.
What other crazy flavors are you currently cooking up?
I want to revisit the concept of bacon ice cream. Most recipes call for candying the bacon, chopping it up and throwing it into a complementary ice cream base. I want to make the ice cream base itself taste like bacon.
What else can we expect from Sebastian’s?
We just opened our newest shop in Katipunan, and it’s a step above our previous scooping stations. In addition to scoops, we also serve sundaes and signature Ice Cream Entrees like our Mango Split (one whole ripe mango cut in half, a scoop of Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, topped with whipped cream and more fresh mango puree) and The Chocapocalypse (a warm fudge brownie topped with a scoop of Dark Chocolate Ice Cream, hot fudge, dark chocolate Shavings and black cocoa).
We also are launching new product lines in the form of Milkshakes and our 9” Ice Cream Pizzas.
I have no intention of resting on our laurels; I want to continue to grow, to keep pushing and experimenting and seeing what else can be done in the medium of ice cream and other frozen confections. Haagen-Dazs is pulling out of the local market, so to me, the title of the best ice cream in the Philippines is up for grabs, and I want it. Even if the crown only exists in my imagination, I want it.
Where do you draw the line? What’s one thing you’d never use in an ice cream flavor?
I would have to say durian, but only from a practical standpoint. I’m not afraid of the flavor, but I am afraid of the smell sticking to the batch freezer and contaminating other ice creams that go into it.
But really, once you cross the threshold of bagoong, you can never say never.
Visit Sebastian’s at the fourth floor of Podium Mall; Cold Comfort Ice Cream Parlor at SM Mall of Asia and the ground floor lobby of Regis Center in Katipunan.