About a decade ago, Song Lee began fantasizing about opening an ice cream shop. A natural entrepreneur, Lee had plenty of business experience (she’s done nearly everything, from restaurants and bars to real estate to seamstressing). So when she stumbled across an ad in the Singtao Daily‘s classified section from someone looking to sell a frozen-dessert business, she jumped at the chance. Lee now owns and operates Sweet Dynasty (6410 Eighth Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-765-1668), a Sunset Park storefront that specializes in Chinese-flavored scoops and cakes.
Since taking over two years ago, Lee has kept many of the recipes, but has changed the ingredients to suit her tastes. At least twice a week, she heads to the market to handpick the fruit for each batch. With exotic flavors like lychee, taro, green tea, and red bean, Lee aims to allow the fruit to stand at the forefront. “You don’t overpower the ice cream with the sweet,” says Lee. “I smell all the different fruit.”
One of the most popular (and rare) flavors is the durian. Known for its pungent aroma, the fruit, also dubbed stink fruit, has been banned from public transport in some Asian countries. Here, it’s blended with a milk-based mixture for a dessert that’s slightly sweet and kind of musty, a bit like a blend of sweat, caramel, and cheese. It sounds odd, but it’s shockingly good. “It’s all about how you make it,” says Lee. “You have to taste it while you’re making it to make sure it tastes like the fruit.”
The scoops are popular, but Lee is locally hailed for her cakes. Every time a customer comes in to order one, Lee takes the time to explore the options. She combines flavors like taro and vanilla, milk tea and green tea, and almond and pistachio. When someone comes in, she asks whether they’ve tried her cakes in the past, how many kids they’ll have at the celebration, and how many adults. If they have had her cakes, she’ll recommend a combination that they’ve never tried before; she then lets them taste the options to make sure it’s just right.
Lee loves making people happy with her cakes and ice creams. “I like the feeling,” she says. “When the customers come in with their kids to have ice cream and they’re in a good mood after, that’s what I like.”