Gelato charmed Kwon Jeong-hye when she was studying Italian cuisine in South Korea.
Kwon remembers being initially drawn to the canvas of gelato as a conduit through which flavors could be channeled.
Now Kwon is sharing that charm with shopgoers at the small gelateria she opened with her husband in Seoul.
Zenzero -- a gelateria that specializes in artisanal, small batch gelato and sorbet -- opened this March in Seoul‘s Samseong-dong (Photo credit: Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)
"I went to learn how to make gelato in Italy,” said Zenzero owner-gelatiere Kwon, 37, explaining how she and her husband traveled to the source to master the art of the cool Italian dessert.
After returning to Korea, Kwon and her husband spent over a year honing their skills before opening Zenzero in Samseong-dong this March.
Located near Gangnam-gu Office Station, Zenzero -- which means “ginger” in Italian -- is a 12-seat spot that is not easy to find but definitely worth the effort.
There are 10 to 12 flavors of gelato and sorbet on rotation, several of which are seasonal -- like their surprisingly dense yet feather light watermelon sorbet, made using a local variety that is in season in May.
Pistachio gelato, which is not the more familiar green hue but a light beige, pops on the palate, tasting of whole, roasted pistachios with the faintest trace of salt, potent, rich and very creamy.
“We roast shelled pistachios with a dash of salt and then grind them, making a paste,” Kwon said, revealing the immense amount of work that goes into making that one flavor.
Zenzero’s signature ginger-milk (right) gets its fragrant spice from a housemade ginger syrup. The pistachio gelato (left) is made from scratch with shelled pistachios that are roasted with a hint of salt and then ground into a paste (Photo credit: Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)
Zenzero’s riso gelato (right) is made with a Korean variety of rice and spiced with cinnamon. The matcha gelato (left) is made with pulverized green tea sourced from Jeju Island (Photo credit: Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)
Zenzero’s popular ginger and milk delivers a fragrant wash of slightly spicy ginger, tempered by dairy and spiced with cinnamon and cloves.
“We make a ginger syrup,” said Kwon, going on to explain that the syrup is aged in order to reduce the fiery heat of ginger.
“This is our most popular flavor,” Kwon said of their signature, namesake gelato.
Riso gelato, which is amped up with cinnamon, is made with a Korean variety of rice.
Kwon says the local rice variety was selected for its glutinous texture and toasty fragrance, so that when cooked al dente, it imparts a lovely chew and aroma to all that creamy, spiced dairy.
Matcha, made with pulverized green tea sourced from Jeju Island, packs an intense wallop with a palate-cleansing bitter finish, while Earl Grey possesses a floral, citrusy nose.
“We use a lot of ingredients in our gelato,” Kwon revealed that the secret to all those powerful flavors is because she and her husband do not skimp on ingredients.
Of the name for their shop, Kwon said, “Ginger is very fragrant and has a strong personality that still works well with other ingredients. I would like our gelato to be like that.”
10-18 Samseong-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
Open noon to 10 p.m. on weekdays, from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturdays, from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sundays, closed Mondays
Gelato by the cup (two flavors of choice) costs 4,000 won and 16,000 won to 28,000 won by the takeaway carton (three to four flavors of choice)
By Jean Oh (firstname.lastname@example.org