City Bites Q&A: Moo Shu Ice Cream & Liz Mok
City Bites

City Bites Q&A: Moo Shu Ice Cream & Liz Mok

What is it? Liz Mok’s own Asian inspired ice cream recipes, scooped into two-bite balls, and dipped in a rich chocolate coating. After diving in to her passion, Mok is making it work with Moo Shu Ice Cream – hitting all the right marks on her way: starting at Privé’s Night Market, partnering with some of Ottawa’s coolest foodies, a sweet spot at Lansdowne’s farmer’s market, and a place on SEN asian cuisine‘s dessert menu as well as at TOMO Japanese Restaurant. We can’t wait to see what she’s going to bring us next!

Find Liz and her Moo Shu truffles at Clover Food | Drink, 155 Bank St., from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. this Monday, Aug. 17 for a pop-up shop!

Spicy Caramel Fuyu

How are you finding your instant success?

Haha, not sure I can say I’ve found success yet, although I’m always surprised when people come up to me at the market to say they’ve heard of Moo Shu! It’s still a struggle to get people to try ice cream in an unfamiliar format and in unfamiliar flavours, but with the rate of returning customers we see, I’m confident that we’re onto something amazing.

Is your family into food?
My mom wasn’t a great cook (sorry mom!) but my parents deemed food the most important thing to spend money on. Good quality, new food experiences, we didn’t have a fancy home, car, or clothes like some of our friends but we sure ate a lot fancy things. Living between two huge multicultural metropolitan cities, Hong Kong and Vancouver, and we ate out all the time. It wasn’t until moving to Ottawa for university that I realized that eating out, say, five dinners a week wasn’t normal.

Good Morning Yuzu

What did you study in school?
Industrial Design at Carleton University. How does that relate to an ice cream business? I would say I use a lot of the soft skills that I learned, like developing your product iteratively, considering the holistic user experience, and thinking about how to scale production. Practice with graphic design and general “making” doesn’t hurt too!

You started planning in April, but when did it really start to take off?
We actually started off with a bang at Privé’s 613 Night Market. We had four people working the booth and none of us were able to take a break until 9pm. It worried me that we really petered off afterwards, but we just kept going to events and talking to people. I can’t identify when we “took off” to be honest. It’s been gradual growth as the word of mouth has spread. If I had to choose, July’s Ottawa Citizen article definitely made a significant boost!

Moolong Tea

How was Canada Day?
Cold and rainy. Not a great day for ice cream but I had a blast at Dominion City Brew’s Dominion Day. Those guys know how to throw a party. Amazing beer, kooky Canada-themed games, local musical talent, and great food from Town and The Rex. It felt like I was at an amped up backyard party.

What has been your most popular product so far?
Our best-seller is without a doubt, the Spicy Caramel Fuyu ice cream truffle. It has an intense flavour, and is very balanced. Sweet and bitter from the caramel then salty, spicy, and umami from the fuyu (Chinese fermented tofu), all packed into a creamy frozen truffle. I don’t think anyone’s ever put fuyu in ice cream! I’m proud to say it’s a Moo Shu exclusive. My dad thinks I’m a weirdo for concocting this and still doesn’t believe that it’s Moo Shu’s best seller haha.

It’s worth mentioning that Hong Kong Milk Tea has the most loyal following. The Hong Kong style milk tea drought in Ottawa really pushed me to make this flavour over the last few years and many people have come to us just for it.

Black Sesame

What are your fall/winter plans?
I do have new products in mind for fall and winter. Something new and not yet done in Ottawa. I’m still testing and working on it, but I’m excited to share when it’s ready! As for ice cream, I’ll probably feel it out, see what the demand is like over the colder seasons. I’ve seen line-ups at Dairy Queen in February so you never know!

Why “Moo Shu”?
Moo Shu just has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? It’s taken from mu shu pork, which is a North Americanized Chinese dish. That’s kind of what we are doing, taking traditional ingredients and reintroducing it in a new modernized way. Plus, “Moo” for cows and dairy!

Hong Kong Milk Tea

Are you looking for permanent housing (as in a store of your own)?
I would absolutely love to have a store of my own, but it seems to be a ways away unless an affordable hole in the wall opens up. I daydream about it all the time and it keeps me motivated. I have to remind myself to scale-up responsibly because it’s so easy to give in to the urge to just go big! In the meantime, I think Ottawa is pretty great for mobile vendors in the summer. With all the festivals, craft fairs, and markets there’s lots of opportunities for small start-up makers to showcase their stuff.

Who approached who about the beer partnering/how did it come about?
It was definitely me that approached Beyond the Pale and Dominion City Brewing about beer ice cream. I’m still an unknown compared to those guys, so it’d be highly unlikely that they’d come to me! Beer in ice cream is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and I’m a huge fan of both breweries. There’s so much creativity coming from our local breweries. It’s a no-brainer to tap into that!

Breakfast Bite

What are your next flavours?
I constantly have new flavours on my mind. Chrysanthemum, Lapsang Souchong, Thai-style salty coconut, sake-kasu… Too many flavours, too little time!

What do you do with your free time now (if any)?
Free time is really hard to come by nowadays. Ice cream making was my defacto hobby so now that I do it full-time I’m afraid there’s not much left to do! I guess you could say I am a Netflix potato when I’m not making ice cream.