Guilty Pleasures

Nomadic Ice Cream Rolls: Thai-Style Ice Cream Rolls Have Arrived in Metro Phoenix

The Guilty Pleasure: Thai-style ice cream rolls
Where to Get It: Nomadic Ice Cream Rolls
Price: $3 (small), $6 (large)
What it Really Costs: Your last ounce of willpower because these rolls are too much fun to resist. 

Just in time for summer, a new ice cream dessert has landed in Arizona: Thai-style ice cream rolls.

These popular treats, first sold across Thailand's night markets, started popping up in New York City last summer including at specialty ice cream shops like I CE NY and 10Below Ice Cream. The novelty dessert has reportedly inspired hordes of ice cream lovers to stand in long lines and endure wait times upward of 40 minutes. 

But what are ice cream rolls, exactly? The dessert is pretty much what you might gather from its name: ice cream, rolled into artful little scrolls, then sprinkled with toppings such as whipped cream, cookie pieces, candy, and whatever else might be on the menu. 

Nino McCurley, owner of the Nomadic Ice Cream Rolls ice cream cart in El Mirage, says he is the first to bring the dessert to Arizona. On Tuesdays and Thursday nights from 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., and on the weekends from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m., you'll find McCurley making the Thai-style ice cream rolls inside the snack bar at Gateway Park, a sprawling 13-acre park near the intersection of Peoria Avenue and El Mirage Road in the far northwest Valley.  

It's not uncommon to see kids and families waiting in line for one of McCurley's ice cream rolls, which are almost as fun to watch being made as they are to eat. 

To order, you pick your ice cream flavor and any add-ins, and then stand back and watch as McCurley chops and smashes the ingredients together using oversize metal paddles on a frozen round metal plate — kind of like the smash-and-blend method popularized by Cold Stone Creamery. As the flavored ice cream starts to firm up, he spreads it into a thin layer, then scrapes the ice cream into loose rolls, which are tucked into paper cups and covered in toppings. The whole process takes less than five minutes.

On a recent visit, Oblea Berry ice cream rolls were on the menu, which are named partly in honor of obleas, the popular Latin American wafer cookies. The strawberry-flavored ice cream rolls were topped with strawberry syrup, bright pink Mexican wafer cookies, whipped cream, and garnishes of fresh strawberries. The strawberry rolls, made from scratch from McCurley's own recipe, were creamy, fruity, and pleasantly smooth. 

Other flavors currently on the menu at Nomadic Ice Cream Rolls include Down with B.C.P., a banana cream pie flavor, and a chocolate option called ChocoBrah. McCurley, who says he learned to make ice cream rolls after months of trial-and-error practice and studying YouTube videos, plans to rotate in new flavors every two weeks or so.

The 28-year-old former Air Force firefighter, whose military career was cut short after breaking his back and then enduring months of physical therapy after a serious motorcycle accident, has only been in the ice cream game for a few months, but already has big plans for Nomadic Ice Cream Rolls. He says he hopes to expand his business to private catering, a food truck and, eventually, a brick-and-mortar location.

In the meantime, McCurley says, he plans to audition for an upcoming open casting call for Shark Tank, the popular ABC reality series where budding entrepreneurs seek financial backing from celebrity investors. 

If you want to watch McCurley rolling some ice cream — and get a taste of his made-to-order creations for yourself — check out the Nomadic Ice Cream Rolls Twitter to see updates on the ice cream cart's locations and hours. Oh, and as an added bonus, McCurley says New Times readers get $1 off every cup if you mention this article, which is a pretty good excuse for indulging in what may be this year's trendiest guilty pleasure. 
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Patricia Escárcega was Phoenix New Times' food critic.