Stella Jean’s Brings Inventive Ice Cream to O.C.

Get the inside scoop on Costa Mesa’s newest scoop shop from its co-founder and chef.
Mango Sticky Rice and Matcha Pistachio ice cream from Stella Jean’s; Photograph by Michelle Pagaran

Thailand native Gan Suebsarakham got his start as a chef baking pies and selling them at pop-ups in coffeehouses in San Diego. At Stella Jean’s, he layers many of his baked goods with locally sourced and premium ingredients to create an inspired lineup of flavors. Next door to sister shop Pop Pie Co., Stella Jean’s opened with more than a dozen flavors handcrafted on-site, including the signature mango sticky rice and the crowd-pleasing brown butter pecan. More than half the menu, including the house-made waffle cone, provides gluten-free and vegan options. You can stop by the shop to order by the scoop or grab pints to-go. Suebsarakham owns and operates the O.C. and San Diego locations of Stella Jean’s and Pop Pie Co. with his husband and co-owner, Steven Torres.

What makes the O.C. location different from the San Diego one?
We knew we wanted to do more gluten-free options here. San Diego also has less flavors right now. Over there, we don’t really have space so we can only do nine flavors max. Here, we have 13 flavors. But our goal is to have the same flavors at both locations.

Tell us more about the mango sticky rice flavor.
When I knew we were going to open an ice cream shop, I knew I had to add a mango sticky rice flavor. When we opened in San Diego, we didn’t have this because I didn’t like the version that we had. It took me almost seven to eight tries to get this recipe down. It’s a mango sorbet with pandan, coconut milk, and oat milk. I ran to Seafood City (in Irvine) the other day to grab all the pandan they had.

What are some other signature flavors?
Our ube pandesal toffee, s’mores, brown butter pecan, and the earl grey citrus tea cake.

Are there any flavors that are particularly labor-intensive?
Yeah. Actually a lot of them. That’s why we can’t have 20 flavors. For example, with the earl grey and citrus tea cake flavor, we have to brew the tea and strain it twice to prevent any of the tea leaves going into the ice cream base. We swirl in housemade blueberry jam, and I use butterfly pea flower to make the cake blue. (In Thailand), we use butterfly pea flower in a lot of desserts to create the blue color.

What’s special about your waffle cones?
The waffle cones are inspired by Thai coconut rolls and have coconut milk, Earth Balance vegan butter to substitute the fat, and we use flax meal to replace the egg, maple syrup, and gluten-free flour.

What’s a key ingredient in the ice cream?
We use milk with 16 percent butterfat, which is the highest in the industry, from Scott Brothers Dairy in Chino. Other places usually use 10 or 12. We also churn with lower air content so the texture is almost like gelato.

Can you tell us about flavors in the works?
We’re launching a new flavor in collaboration with Crack Shack soon, inspired by their miso maple butter biscuits. With the pandemic, we plan to rotate flavors every two weeks to keep things exciting and keep people coming back.

Photograph by Michelle Pagaran

270 E. 17th St.
Costa Mesa

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