MALAYSIAN-born lawyer Po Lin Lim didn’t expect to fall in love on holiday in Argentina. But she did – with ice cream. Po Lin tells Diane Leow how her passion for the creamy dessert led her to quit her job and set up Helados Jauja on Lygon St.
Po Lin Lim’s love affair with ice cream began at a young age.
Originally from Malaysia, Po Lin moved to Melbourne to study law. As much as she enjoyed indulging in ice cream, she never seriously considered starting a business selling it.
That is, until she went on holiday to Argentina.
“I didn’t realise that ice cream is such a big culture in Argentina. People literally have their favourite ice cream shop and it’s like a cult following,” she says.
“You could just walk into any ice cream shop and still get a decent ice cream!”
But there was one store she kept going back to – Helados Jauja.
Soon, she became a regular customer and got to know some of the team. They even joked about opening a store in Malaysia or Australia.
Little did she know how soon that joke would become reality.
When Po Lin moved back to Melbourne, she kept in touch with the family who owned Helados Jauja. Bitten by the icy bug, she began entertaining the idea of going back to Argentina to learn the art of the ice cream.
One thing led to another and her love for the creamy dessert eventually won. Po Lin resigned from her position as a lawyer and packed her bags for Argentina – Patagonia to be precise.
“Patagonia is a very inspiring place – facing such scenery, it’s hard not to get inspired,” she says.
But it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Po. Even after quitting her job, she still needed to convince Helados Jauja’s owners that she was serious about learning their craft.
She spent a lot of time in the kitchen, making ice cream, then serving it at the shopfront at night. She even learnt how to scoop the ice cream into its signature conical shape.
“That itself is a skill everyone here has to learn – the way to scoop,” she says.
“That’s the traditional way of serving ice cream that people don’t do anymore.”
By 2011, Po Lin was back in Melbourne, opening her own Helados Jauja store on Lygon Street in Carlton.
Just like its Argentinean sister store, Helados Jauja’s ice-cream is all about going back to basics: fresh fruit, quality ingredients and lots of hard work to achieve that super-smooth texture without compromising on the original elements – be it fruit, chocolate, coffee, or cream.
Po Lin promises no artificial flavouring, colouring, or gelatine in their ice cream-making process.
Take, for example, the way she makes their pandan ice cream. Po Lin extracts pandan juice from the leaf instead of using store-bought extracts. As a result, the flavour is more intense than most pandan ice creams.
But there are some things Po Lin learnt to do differently from the Argentian franchise.
After her stint in Patagonia, Po returned to Melbourne and went back to school – albeit a very different institution. She enrolled in Carpigiani University, also known as the Ice Cream University, where thousands of students learn the theory and practice of making ice cream.
“At university, we learnt to deal with fruits we never dealt with in Argentina,” she recalls.
“We didn’t do apricots in Argentina. Kiwi is another fruit my Argentinean friends don’t like to work with. As are blood oranges.”
It’s been a long journey for Po, but it’s paid off. Helados Jauja has gained a loyal following. They include the couple who would visit her store every single day without fail for their favourite dessert. Or the husband who drives a great distance every week, just to grab an entire take-home pack filled with salted caramel helado for his wife.
And the way business is going, their fan base seems set to grow even bigger.
If you are in the area, check out Helados Jauja on 254 Lygon St, or visit their website for more information.