Ministry of Food may seem like a zealous name for a dessert house, but given the dedication to quality that underlies the concept, it’s not off the mark.
Not every restaurant would go to the trouble of sourcing milk from Japan’s dairy capital or spend six hours churning out a batch of gelato that will last a few days.
However, that’s exactly what’s done at Ministry of Food - MOF for short.
Located at 30 Le Loi Street near the corner of Pasteur Street in Ho Chi Minh City, MOF is a two-floor dessert parlor with a sleek but light-hearted atmosphere, where you can settle in downstairs for easier access to the gelato display or cozy into a leather armchair overlooking Le Loi Street upstairs.
Though the MOF brand originated in Singapore, HCMC owner Alex Hong has overhauled much of the menu, drawing primarily on his travels through Japan to do so.
“I put a lot of work into [the menu] and changed it to fit the market,” Hong said. “Even though it’s a Singaporean franchise, the desserts are kept to the original Japanese formula.”
Take the mitsu mame, a classic Japanese dessert. The shiratama kurian version served at MOF combines kanten jelly – also known as agar - with a mix of local and imported fruit, rice-flour dumplings (shiratama) and sweet red beans, all arranged around soft serve ice cream.
The varying sweetness and texture of the ingredients define the dish - virtually every bite offers a new gustatory sensation.
Though the kanten jelly is the foundation of the dish, the soft serve steals the show. Crafted from Hokkaido milk, it’s remarkably smooth and retains a natural sweetness. It’s a result of the grain diet fed to the Wagyu cattle from which it’s produced.
MOF also serves the premium soft serve with imo (Japanese yam and sweet potato) and kakigori (shaved ice), as well as in milkshakes and frappes (VND58,000 or US$3.25) and parfaits (VND89,000 or $5).
The ingredients used to craft the gelato are also evidence of the dedication to dessert: vanilla beans from Madagascar, chocolate from Belgium, kumquat and green tea from Japan and fresh fruit sourced locally.
No additives are used, so the essence of the ingredients comes through unadulterated.
A peek at the process explains how MOF is able to bring a taste of Italy to HCMC. The tiramisu is made by alternating layers of biscotti and ice cream and the Ferrero Rocher is blended with ground almonds, Nutella and waffle biscuits. Gelato is served in solo scoops, with one scoop selling for VND28,000 ($1.57), two for VND46,000 ($2.58) or three for VND62,000($3.48). The gelato is also added to milkshakes and parfaits.
The third element in MOF’s trifecta of dessert bases is matcha, a green tea reduced to a fine powder. The teas might prove too bitter for some, but for those with a palette for bold tastes, it’s worth trying in its varying forms: in hot and cold lattes and as a flavoring for gelato and soft serve.
The iced matcha sheratama (VND58,000) pairs the green tea with chocolate gelato, taking some of the bite off of the matcha and creating a contrast of sweet and bitter.
If you’re looking to make a meal out of it, MOF also features a slate of baguette sandwiches (VND56,000 to VND86,000 or $3.14-$4.83) and bento boxes (VND86,000 to VND148,000 or $4.84-$8.30).
The sandwiches range from Western staples like ham and cheese and parma ham to Japanese-inspired options like tuna wasabi and teriyaki chicken. Bento boxes are available in seven options including tempura prawn, Australian beef stir-fry and sweet-smoked eel.
All of this leads us to believe that we may have spoken too soon when we announced the ascendancy of frozen yoghurt in HCMC in July’s AsiaLife magazine. It looks like the city’s sweet tooths will just have to find a way to work fro-yo, gelato, Hokkaido soft serve and matcha into their snack calendars.
Ministry of Food
30 Le Loi, D1
Tel: (08) 3827 7898
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