With Hurricane Laura hours away from making landfall in Texas and Louisiana, general manager Rebecca Yan and the team at Three Fold Mobile, located behind Pizza Cafe on Rebsamen Park Road, were breaking down their canopy tents to prepare for the ensuing tropical storm in Arkansas. “We’ve lost three of them from heavy storms already,” Yan said. For people who choose to hunker down while the storm makes its way inland, Three Fold is promoting its Reheat and Eat program at the Main Street restaurant. For the rest of us, it’s the perfect time to try Three Fold Mobile’s new shaved ice menu we’ve been hearing about.
Three Fold’s most popular ice is lychee, a tropical fruit native to southeastern China. “A lot of people describe it like a very ripe grape or kind of a floral taste,” Yan said. Had Yan told me that she was starting me off with a cup of plain shaved ice to cleanse my palate, and I might’ve believed her, because the lychee syrup is colorless. The ice was hollowed out in the middle and filled with small yellow popping bobas, like those seen in bubble tea. The consistency of the balls is gel-like and if you bite down on them or push them up against the roof of your mouth with your tongue, they burst and coat your mouth with fruit flavor. The lychee syrup and mango bobas combined perfectly for a refreshing, light, balanced flavor. If you try to keep a straight face, as opposed to a “wow, this flavor is unreal” face, when trying it for the first time, you’ll struggle.
Next, Yan brought out the red bean ice with sweetened condensed milk. This one felt more like a dessert, but not nearly as creamy as the cream flavors found at typical American shaved ice stands. Sweetened and mashed red beans — adzuki — are a common Asian dessert; they make up the paste in Three Fold’s sesame balls.
Yan said Three Fold had thought about making shaved ice before, but the idea didn’t come to fruition until employees found themselves working in a hot food truck in the middle of summer. “It kind of naturally came about,” she said. “And the mobile lends a good opportunity for it.” Three Fold has never had a dessert other than sesame balls, Yan said, “so we’ve been wanting to explore this traditional Eastern dessert (a highly skilled craft in Japan and a popular street food in Taiwan). The food truck, which was completely not in our plan of development, seemed like a good place to test the waters.”
Three Fold works with a vendor to get the popping bobas from Taiwan. “We knew we wanted to use real fruit-base flavors instead of artificial sweeteners and flavors. A portion of the syrups are made fully in our kitchen and the rest are Lisa’s [Zhang, Three Fold’s owner and chef] concoctions with the fruits we get from Taiwan,” Yan said. “So essentially, imported raw products and then formulated by her [Zhang], if that makes sense.”
The shaved ice bubble tea is Three Fold’s signature bubble tea layered with condensed milk, brown sugar sauce and brown sugar bubbles.
Yan said that along with lychee, passion fruit and dragon fruit have been the most popular flavors. “We’re actually very surprised; most people that come here for the shaved ice go for the Asian flavors instead of your standard strawberry and green apple and what not,” she said.
If you’re looking for more traditional flavors, Three Fold also has pineapple, peach, watermelon and mango syrups, along with strawberry or passion fruit popping bobas and rainbow jellies.
Yan said the shaved ice has been more of an appetizer for customers waiting on to-go orders than a dessert. Like stocking up on shaved ice before a storm — unconventional, maybe — but we think those who do have the right idea.