If last week didn’t make it abundantly clear, it’s summer. So, it's time for frozen treats. If you’re looking for some unique ice cream flavors, head to San Fernando’s Helados Pops to try out the store's ice creams and sorbets made from tropical fruits such as lucuma, marañon and soursop.
Prior to opening the shop in 2015, owner Marthin Ken might not have had any firsthand experience with ice cream, but his family has deep ties to cold confections. His father-in-law, Oscar, operated Helados Pops ice cream shop at Vermont and Santa Monica until 2010, then continued on as a wholesaler, focusing on his signature lucuma ice cream. When Ken re-established Helados Pops, this time in San Fernando, his mother told him his grandfather and great-grandfather were ice cream makers in Belize. “It’s in my blood,” Ken says.
Working with his father-in-law and talking to his grandfather, Ken fine-tuned old favorites and developed new flavors. He’s especially proud of the sugar corn flavor, which he makes from his great-grandfather's recipe. Another innovative flavor was capturing avocado toast in the form of ice cream: avocado almond, a flavor he and his father-in-law worked on. And, of course, there is lucuma, the Peruvian fruit described as tasting like maple, butterscotch or even sweet potato.
Helados Pops works in small batches, using organic fruits found at local farmers markets whenever possible. Obviously, the tropical flavors require imported frozen fruit. Ken points out that one can’t follow an exact recipe for every ice cream, "because fruits aren’t always the same.” Sometimes this means far more or far less of a particular fruit. He also believes in using as little sugar or sweetener as possible: “When you’re dealing with fruits, even coffee, if you put in sweeteners, you’re going to mask it,” Ken says.
The display case has space for 24 flavors; there are always some more commonplace flavors as well as nondairy sorbet options available.
One of the most interesting sorbet flavors is marañon, the cashew fruit. Ken says it requires seven to eight pounds of the fruit, the acidic skin peeled off, to get the true flavor. This makes it a very time-intensive process: The flavor is sort of a melding of mango and pineapple. Another sorbet you’re unlikely to find elsewhere is arrayan, known in English as the sartre guava.
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In the future, Ken is going back to his Belizean roots and working on flavors based on coconut milk instead of dairy. He says maybe they’ll have a line of four to six coconut-based tropical fruit flavors. As Ken says, “I’m passionate about ice cream.”