What do snow cones, sorbet, shaved ice, and ice cream have in common? They’re things of the past. The Los Angeles based Fluff Ice Truck has reinvented dessert, creating a treat that melts in your mouth without the extra calories. Roaming Hunger sat down with truck owner Matt Hui this week to discuss the inner workings of the Fluff Ice Truck. Check out the interview to find out about edible plastic, frozen cotton candy, and the precarious road trip that started it all.
Roaming Hunger: Can you tell us about the history of Fluff Ice?
Matt Hui: We started as a store in April of 2011, and then we had the idea to start a truck. We grew up in Monterey Park, which is where our store is located and it just grew from there. We had a lot of support from the community, a lot of fundraisers, and a lot of people liked it. But we were sort of limiting ourselves to our town, so we were like, “How can we expand? All our friends own food trucks…”
RH: Which trucks?
MH: The Mighty Boba Truck helped us out. Francis and Luca gave us a lot of advice in the beginning. We talked to the guys at Truck Norris too. They told us to find a builder and that was a pretty interesting experience, because when we started this we didn’t know anything about the industry. We found this used truck in San Diego. We didn’t even know how to drive a truck when we started! The first trip was 120 miles, so it was kind of scary. We were building a store, but on a different scale. My friend from college who designed a lot of the characters for our store in Monterey Park was on board to design our truck, which is why the truck is so cool. It works together because you can see those characters in our stores and also on the truck. The truck came from the idea that we could bring our product out to whatever market we’re at.
RH: What exactly is a Fluff Ice?
MH: A fluff ice is a really different kind of shaved ice. It’s most similar to shaved ice because we freeze it like a block of ice but then we actually infuse the flavor into the blocks before we shave it. So for our Thai Tea fluff we actually brew the tea before we freeze it and shave it. Each process to make a block takes about 8 hours but when they come out they look really cool, like fine ribbons woven together.
RH: Is it more like sorbet or a snow cone?
MH: It’s more like sorbet, but it’s also creamy. We use the same shavers as Matsumoto’s in Hawaii. It has a really light texture, but really strong taste. Kind of like frozen cotton candy. Once it hits your mouth it just melts there. It’s a totally different experience. With such a new product, you have to introduce it to people. So everyone compares you to something. When we try to book events, sometimes, they’re like “We already have a shaved ice truck,” but we’re really different.
RH: Where do you think the truck works best?
MH: We do really well at family events and schools. We also do a lot of catering events. We’ve been on Sony’s lot in Culver City. We did the red carpet premiere for Mirror Mirror. We’re just all over the place. We did KTLA the other week with Roaming Hunger, and we were also on the Cooking Channel last Saturday.
RH: What makes people want to have a Fluff Ice?
MH: I think it’s because we’re so unique; because it’s such a new product. We grouped all our favorite parts of dessert, but took away the bad parts. Ice cream is creamy. So is our stuff, but it doesn’t have the same fat content as ice cream. Each serving is roughly 50 calories, which is nothing compared to the 200 calorie count that’s in the same cup of ice cream. It doesn’t compromise on taste. We top our product like yogurt, so you get that part of it too.
RH: What are some of your more unique flavors and toppings?
MH: The Thai Tea one is definitely one of the more popular flavors. No one has anything remotely like it. Our Fusion Green Tea is also one of my favorites. We use two different kinds of green tea, Japanese matcha green tea, which is powdery, and Chinese jasmine green tea. My other favorite is our almond flavor. It’s not nutty, it’s more like Amaretto and it pairs really well with fruits. Our mango flavor is also out of this world.
RH: How does someone go about ordering a Fluff Ice?
MH: We usually have set combinations. We pride ourselves on being really efficient. A lot of trucks that I’ve seen take 10-15 minutes to get an order out. You’re only on a lot for 3-4 hours sometimes, so it’s really difficult to generate sales when the bulk of your time is spent cooking. We can actually get an order out in one minute or less. We just did a catering event for a company picnic and we got 150 orders out in 2 hours! Our stores allow you to customize your order with toppings, but we like to keep our more popular combinations on the truck.
RH: What are some of those more popular combinations?
MH: Our classic one is really cool. It’s a milk flavor but it’s actually non-dairy based. We use non-dairy creamer, so it has the taste of cream, but not the heaviness. We actually source our fruit fresh every night because we have a lot of contacts in the Downtown Produce Market. Being in L.A. is really cool because we have access to all this fresh produce. We source our strawberries fresh from Oxnard and in the summertime, our mangos come from Mexico, but in the winter we have access to the ports in South America. So we have an ample supply year round.
RH: What are some weird toppings that you have?
MH: We have cheesecake bites! There’s this new combo called the Coffee Cake. It’s actually not available on our truck yet, but I’m planning to introduce it next week. It has our Coffee Fluff and it’s topped with gram crackers and cheesecake bites. It has three really different textures. The Coffee Fluff has a different consistency from the others, the cheesecake bites are frozen so they’re a little chewy, and the gram crackers are crunchy. So you get all that together in one serving.
RH: Tell us a little about popping boba…
MH: We have this really cool popping boba. It’s like edible plastic. We put passion fruit juice and strawberry juice, so when you take a bite into it, it has a burst of flavor. Those are really different; I haven’t seen them in many places. Our boba is actually blue in color. It matches the color of our store so we try to keep things very thematic. It’s been a very interesting experience so far, figuring out what works and what doesn’t.
by Sienna Mintz