Elena has been living in Thailand for nine years with her husband, they now have two children who were born here. She came to Koh Phangan in 2010 and has been coming every year since, then moved permanently last October. Elena likes the fact there is a big russian community (as she is from Russia) this helps in terms of raising the children, having Russian speakers around them. And like in many cities in Thailand people are more open and conscious. Elena as a mother of two likes the parenting style of Koh Phangan as she can enjoy time with her kids and take things as they are.
“When I saw the lifestyle of expats here I started to appreciate that people have the same outlook on life as myself and my family”. What got you into ice cream?
I really like the traditional coconut ice cream but I just wanted to invent a healthier version. I see it like a traditional product of Thailand that wasn’t invented. All of the ingredients are already here, it can be a signature product of Thailand. Of course I like deserts as most girls do, ice cream is the one I like the most. I have been vegetarian for nine years now, and try to eat vegan. The dairy ice cream is not as good quality here in Thailand as the dairy is not natural because obviously they don’t have as good dairy source as countries in the western world, they have to use powdered milk. So the main ingredient of the product is not fresh. I like to eat as much natural and whole foods as I can and I enjoy the taste of coconut milk which is a tradition in Thailand however their traditional coconut ice cream still has these unnatural dairy products in them. So I looked into brands of coconut ice cream that are popular in the west, and of course they import the coconut milk from Thailand so why not do it here? I like to make things from scratch and give my children the best products I can and I want to have the best ingredients in the ice cream that I make and work very hard to get the consistency rich, melting and smooth. I use all natural ingredients, only coconut sugar, not refined sugar. So tell us about just the coconut ice cream…
The plan was to have different flavours from the beginning but the initial coconut ice cream is just coconut, cream, milk, sugar and toasted shredded coconut. For people who enjoy coconut flavour it is really good but for some people who don't enjoy the coconut flavour this is where the different flavours come in. How many flavours do you have?
I am working on them all the time. We have coconut, vanilla, chocolate, green tea, strawberry, mango and sorbets. It can be difficult to bring out the berry or fruit flavour in coconut ice cream as coconut is quite a strong flavour and of course it is the base, so this is why I am always working on them. I use the best ingredients for flavour, specific sorts of mango for example. The strawberries here are not as rich as in the west so this one can be problematic but I continue to work on it to bring out the flavour. If people don’t like the coconut flavour they can always rely on chocolate, I have three varieties now, Orange, Chilli and plain, these don't give out the coconut base. I use a good quality cocoa powder and the taste is really good. I am not shy about using the best ingredients in big quantities to make the final product good, especially on a small island as everyone knows each other so we can’t let each other down. Where can people buy your ice cream?
I am a mother of two so I don’t have a shop yet as I want to be with my kids. But I have my ice cream in certain cafes and restaurants, I sell it to them at a reasonably low price so they can sell and make a profit. It is not too many now but I am proud of the ones I work with. Limpipong (next to Homemart) in Thong Sala
was first, also they are in North Coast Bakery in Chaloklum
, Nira’s Bakery in Thong Sala
where you can sit and eat it in the lovely conditioning which is nice! You can buy the ice cream by scoop from Green Gallery in Sri Thanu
, Sweet Shell Cafe, and Pleasureville in Thong Sala
. I also have them in I Love Salad on Koh Tao. The price for tubs is 45 baht and scoops range from 40-70 baht. What are the plans for the future with your ice cream?
I want to get more points of sale, and I’m working on distribution. Also collaboration with more restaurants and cafes. To hopefully have more on Koh Tao and Koh Samui. Really I would love to conquer all the world with my coconut ice cream but my priorities are my family. What do you do in your free time and what are your favourite places?
I walk a lot, I like trekking and hiking. There are a lot of possibilities to walk here on Koh Phangan, I have trekked so many times to bottle beach, I really enjoy that you can do it and be on your own. It is walking meditation. What is your life philosophy?
I try my best not to harm anybody.
Elena was kind enough to bring samples into Phanganist and we can tell you that it is delicious! We don't even have a favourite, they are all good!
Photo's courtesy of Elena Ilicheva (Coconut Mama