Home-grown flavours such as chendol, Singapore Sling and Tiger beer concocted by dessert shops here are vying for the World's Best Gelato title. They are among the 16 flavours that have been shortlisted in the Asia-Pacific leg of the second edition of the Gelato World Tour - a two-year worldwide search that will kickstart here on March 20.
Six of the 16 Asia-Pacific finalists are from Singapore.
They are Mr Chronos Chan and Ms Eunice Soon of Tom's Palette in Shaw Towers; Mr Marco Alfero of Alfero Artisan Gelato, which has outlets in Marina Square and Orchard Gateway; Mr Stefano Cadorin of plus39 Gelato Bar in Circular Road; Mr Charles Tan of Fatcat Ice Cream Bar in Bedok North; Ms Sharon Tay of Momolato in Stamford Road; and Mr Harish Doneka of Pick Me Up Cafe in East Coast Parkway.
Regionally, other finalists come from eight countries including Australia, India, Vietnam and Thailand. They have been shortlisted from more than 40 applicants in a two-month search last year.
While participants did not submit gelato samples, they were selected based on criteria including creativity of gelato flavour and their work experiences.
In Singapore, the top three flavours will be determined by public votes (55 per cent), a 15-member technical jury (40 per cent) headed by chef Justin Quek of Franco-Asian restaurant Sky on 57 in Marina Bay Sands, and the finalists (5 per cent).
The public can sample gelato creations from the 16 Asia-Pacific finalists at the Gelato World Tour Village at Marina Bay Sands and vote for the top three flavours that will represent the region in the grand finals to be held in Rimini, Italy, in 2017.
Singapore is part of the travelling competition, which will tour eight other cities including Tokyo, Shanghai and London. Finalists from the respective regions will be picked from the various stops.
The competition, which is organised by the Carpigiani Gelato University in Italy and confection and baked goods exhibition, Sigep, was first held in 2013 and toured seven cities, such as Rome, Dubai and Berlin.
Ms Valentina Righi, 33, vice-president of the Bruto and Poerio Carpigiani Foundation, which champions gelato culture, hopes that more people in Asia can widen their appreciation of the Italian-style ice cream. She says: "Through greater awareness of gelato, I hope that there will be a stronger demand among consumers and possibly more people will be attracted to open gelato shops here. Gelato can also promote Italian culture, just like pasta and pizza."
She calls Singapore "a gelato capital in Asia" as research by the Carpigiani Gelato University shows that the Republic is one of the more mature gelato markets in the region, with at least 120 gelato shops, more than in cities such as Hong Kong and Bangkok.
Besides sampling gelato in each world tour stop, the public can also attend free courses on gelato- making and setting up a gelato business, and take part in scooping challenges. Through these activities, Ms Righi hopes to quell gelato's long-running confusion with ice cream. Gelato contains around half the fat of regular ice cream and is made with less air and preservatives, which gives it a more intense flavour. Gelato is also served at a higher temperature, which gives it a silkier texture.
On the flavours from the finalists, Ms Righi says that this is the first time that no traditional flavours, such as pistachio or nougatine, made it to the short list. She says: "I am surprised by the strong and creative gelato flavours, which showcase ingredients from the finalists' countries."
These include mango and ube (purple yam) from the Philippines and curcuma syrup from Indonesia.
Finalists from Singapore are also putting the spotlight on local flavours. One of them is Fatcat's Mr Tan, 23, who was inspired by the iconic Singapore Sling. His gelato consists a blend of four tipples, such as cherry and orange liqueurs and is topped with a cherry-filled jelly sphere and pineapples.
Mr Tan, who visited The Long Bar in Raffles Hotel four times to nail down the flavour, says: "The drink tasted like cough syrup in other places as too much liqueur was added; I want to bring out its fruity flavours through my gelato."
Another finalist, Mr Alfero of Alfero Artisan Gelato, 41, found inspiration from his favourite local dessert, chendol, which he eats once a week.
The former finance manager came up with the Chendol Merdeka gelato flavoured with coconut milk and gula melaka and served with red beans and pandan jelly. The Italian, who has been living in Singapore for five years, says: "I wanted to create something new for the competition. Chendol is foreign to ang mohs but represents true Singapore flavours."
Other flavours are Tiger Beer by Mr Doneka of Pick Me Up Cafe, tofu and tahini (sesame seed paste) by Mr Cadorin of plus39 Gelato Bar, and coconut milk and palm sugar by Ms Tay of Momolato.
Tom's Palette's Mr Chan, 40, paired yuzu imported from Kochi, Japan, with popping candy from Turkey to create a refreshing yet sizzling treat.
He says: "Eating gelato should be full of surprises, so I want to create a party in the mouth."