Thanks to the proliferation of trend-spotting foodie blogs worldwide, it’s easy to trace the way new food fads spread from city to city. For example, a little googling tells us that fish-shaped ice cream cones started making waves in New York City in 2016. In 2017, they wowed bloggers in London. Boston got them in 2018. And this year? Well 2019 is the year fish-shaped ice cream cones arrived in Oceanside.
410 Mission Ave, Oceanside
Fugu Ice Cream & Taiyaki opened in the heart of Oceanside, not far from the pier. Taiyaki is the word for fish-shaped cookies that have been served in Japan for more than a century. The waffle-like cookies, baked in a mold to resemble a red seabream, are traditionally filled with a sweet filling, such as red bean paste.
I know what you’re thinking: how is this not the most popular Girl Scout cookie flavor already?
Safe to say, few could have predicted a fish-shaped dessert would find traction in the U.S., but we’ve become a people who love to photograph our food, and there’s something satisfying about gazing at an ice cream cone made to look like the fish is trying to eat the ice cream. The consensus word to describe it, according to the blogerati, is adorable.
These taiyaki cones are not as stiff as sugar cones, so they favor the use of soft serve ice cream over scoops. But as I surveyed the menu at Fugu (named for the puffer fish that is poisonous if your sushi chef doesn’t cut it properly), I found the flavors of soft serve it offers way more interesting than the fish cones. Along with vanilla, they include ube, matcha, and black sesame. Better yet, they include the option to get a matcha-vanilla or ube-sesame swirl.
I had to go for the purple ube and greyish sesame swirl and have no regrets. The unique flavors didn’t overwhelm the creamy ice cream sweetness, and I welcomed the deviation from chocolate. On the other hand, it’s still soft serve ice cream, so there’s a low ceiling at play. The cone didn’t play much a role in eating it. Most of the ice cream was gone by the time I started taking bites. That’s where another key feature comes into play. Along with ice cream, each fish cone gets a sweet filling, such as that sweet red bean paste, or if you prefer, nutella or custard. I picked the Mexican caramel cajeta, and eating the fish cone after the ice cream was gone proved the true highlight. Almost as though the fish cookies have been popular in Japan for good reason.
Turns out though, there’s a more elaborate style of ice cream also being served at Fugu: rolled ice cream (that Thai-originated treat blew up in New York in 2015, in case you wondered).
That’s the kind where a puddle of cream is frozen on a super cold flat plate, then peeled off into sweet rolls of ice cream. Fugu dresses up its rolled ice cream with a choice of strawberries, Oreos, and typically a chocolate syrup. I tried the s’mores flavor, niftily served with a graham cracker, a bite of Hershey’s chocolate, and a scorched marshmallow. Fun to eat, but it’s no soft serve fish cone. And I think that one is a Girl Scout cookie.