Man Tou Da Han: Miso ice cream in Mantous — a punny adventure to keep you on your toes

This past weekend, Man Tou Da Han, an up-and-coming local ice cream shop wowed me with their delicious creations. Think unique flavours, punny names and a heartening story to tell. These are the three reasons that compelled me to try them out.

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Man Tou Da Han’s concept pairs unique ice cream flavour combinations with mantou buns. Run by a two-man show, their creative and witty flair constantly shines through in their work. The flavours, in the likes of miso and salted egg yolk, will first confuse and then delight your taste buds.

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Intrigued by the humorously named flavours like Me So Hungry, I asked them about the inspiration behind their concept. In the months leading up to their graduation from NUS, founders TY and CT began thinking of how they were going to keep life exciting even after settling down. In true blue foodie fashion, they turned to adventurous flavour combinations to find that very excitement.

The idea of making ice cream sandwiches with mantou buns arose from an early conversation about chilli crab ice cream in Singapore. Making a pun on the phrase ‘mantou’, their name makes reference to the Chinese expression meaning ‘brow beaded with sweat’. How apt, for an ice cream shop to pay homage to Singapore’s hot weather.

With humorous Singlish catchphrases like ‘kiap‘ (to pinch or sandwich) and punny video game references, Man Tou Da Han distinctively stays true to their vision of keeping excitement alive.

What I tried

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The ice cream was accompanied by two boxes of 10 beautifully golden-brown mantous. Thoughtfully pre-sliced, all I had to do was to toast these compact little buns for about four minutes before popping a slab of ice cream in between to enjoy. The juxtaposition of bracing cold ice cream against a hot pastry will never get old.

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With a hint of crunchiness that makes mantous so addictive, the crust provided a perfect contrast to the creamy fillings. I did wish that the crunchiness had been more consistently seen across all the mantous though. However, they were thankfully not overly greasy, which made them feel less sinful.

The white interior of the buns remained fluffy and soft, lending to pleasurable textural contrast. It became even more enjoyable when the buns soaked up the melting ice cream to give them a burst of flavour and moisture. Man Tou Da Han is definitely not just your typical ice-cream-on-carb dessert.

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First up was their latest Rose Oolong (S$6.50), an intriguing blend of floral and tea notes. Initially, I thought that the floral taste was too sharp, until the bitterness from the oolong came through. The lychee-like sweetness was necessary to cut through the bitter undertones in this flavour.

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The Rose Oolong was quite a new experience. It took me a while to process the contrasting flavours, especially when the combination was not like any I’d tasted before. 

Next, I had a go at the Ultraman’s Salted Egg (S$6.50). I’d be lying if I said that I deep-dove into this flavour without trepidation. I’m not a big fan of salted egg, so to have it in ice cream took a bit of mental preparation.

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I took a moment to study the ice cream before breaking into it. With darker yellow bits of salted egg yolk against a light yellow base, there’s nothing to say that this ice cream is not visually pleasing.

Sure enough, the Ultraman’s Salted Egg had a rich umami taste that bordered on overwhelming for my personal preference. However, in the spirit of staying excited in life, I pressed on. There was a faintly powdery texture that is very distinctive of salted egg yolk.

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Even though this flavour is not my cup of tea, I can tell that it’s been made well from the balance of sweetness and savouriness. They’ve pretty accurately captured the flavour of salted egg. If you’re a fan of liu sha bao (salted egg custard buns), you’d probably be pleased by the ice cream.

For all their newfangled creations, the one I never expected to enjoy so much was the Me So Hungry (S$6.50).

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This unassuming caramel-looking ice cream might initially bore you, or even throw you off with the knowledge that it contains miso, a savoury Japanese fermented soy seasoning. Don’t let that deter you.

The miso is not very pronounced or overwhelming here, instead of providing a mild savoury kick to the entire flavour profile (think salted caramel). I really enjoyed this, with the sweet depth from the brown sugar balanced by some savouriness. It tasted a little like butterscotch and had a really smooth texture to match.

Final thoughts

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If any of their items that I’ve just described has got you salivating by this point, they take in orders via their Instagram account via DMs only at this time. Beyond their well-made ice cream and delicious mantous, I really admire Man Tou Da Han for their unique concept and branding, as well as the principle that guides their business.

With their constant creative spirit, I’m sure they’ll go far in innovating even more special and exciting flavours in the future. I, for one, am definitely staying tuned for that.

Expected Damage: S$6.50 per 235ml tub; S$15.50 – S$24.50 per bundle