Aug 15, 2012

Local Spotlight: Yuki makes artisan shaved ice using real ingredients

If you’ve visited Mountain West Burrito this summer, you may have noticed Yuki, the shaved ice stand perched in the corner of the parking lot.

Yuki is the brainchild of Dan Purdon, a former Heirloom family member. What makes it stand out from the hundreds of other shaved ice stand? Dan makes all of his flavorings from scratch and from real ingredients. He sources the best and freshest ingredients (the menu changes constantly) and, as much as humanly possible, uses local and organic produce.

If you haven’t tried Yuki, yet, you need to. In the meantime, meet Dan! You can find out more about Yuki on Facebook or their website.

What gave you the inspiration for Yuki?

I had a shaved ice in Kyoto, Japan that completely blew my mind.  The flavors were perfect, the ice was super-fine, and it was served in a nice sit-down restaurant with beautiful presentation.  This opened my eyes to a glimpse of what shaved ice could be, if only it were taken a little more seriously.  I told myself right there: I have to bring this to America!

 What’s your method for finding ingredients and creating your syrups?

I’m at the Salt Lake farmer’s market every week; that’s my prime place to scout out new ingredients.  Most of the syrups I make follow the basic procedure for a fruit coulis or dessert sauce.  I do a simple syrup of cane sugar and water, and add just enough of it to the cut fruit.  (The concentrations of the syrup depend on the fruit, but my end goal is to make it taste as natural as possible without oversweetening.)  Then you puree and strain well, and season with a little salt and/or lemon if it needs it.

What inspires you?

In general, I simply love food.  I love interesting ingredients, and I’m eternally tinkering with new flavor combinations.  That’s just what I do for fun; it’s what I’ve always done.  But ever since last year, a huge portion of my food research has been devoted specifically to shaved ice.  So at this point I’m in the habit of looking at just about ANY food and thinking to myself, “could that work?”  My regular customers are great sources of new ideas, too – I believe beet, jalapeno and avocado have all been suggested by customers at one point!

What is your food philosophy?

I have a few basic guidelines that I try to adhere to:

Invest in quality.  Most Americans spend a very low percentage of their income on food, especially when compared to other countries.  That means we’re going out of our way to spend as little as possible on the stuff that we put into our bodies.  I believe this creates a huge amount of problems, both for us individually, and on a much larger scale as it influences our food markets.

Follow the seasons.  Eat what’s good, when it’s good.  It’s cheaper, it’s more fun, and it’s IMMENSELY more delicious.

Go simple, go natural.  Stay away from over-processed foods – keep things as close to their natural state as possible.

Enjoy!  I think it’s possible to become too stressed over the food you eat.  That completely defeats the point, in my opinion.  If you’re not thoroughly enjoying your meal times, I think it’s time to reevaluate life!

What is your personal favorite flavor?

Coffee.  If you’re a coffee drinker, you OWE it to yourself to stop by on a hot afternoon and get a coffee with cream.  It’s simply amazing.

Where do you see yourself in a few years — a storefront? a restaurant? something non-related to food?

I plan to grow steadily with Yuki for at least a few years, so I’ll still be doing the same thing every summer for a good while.  But the off-season is anyone’s guess – that’s what I like about a summer business like this!  This year I’ll be writing a book in Europe, and who knows what the next will hold.  I like having some flexibility to pursue other passions.

What is your book about?

It’s a fantasy novel, completely unrelated to food!  It will probably sound extremely nerdy if I try to describe it 🙂  But I hope to finish it by the end of the year.

From Dan’s recipe file:

Here’s a simple recipe for making a melon syrup.  I used this as I was formulating test recipes over the winter, and it works great with honeydew or cantaloupe.

1 medium sized honeydew or cantaloupe
2.5 c water
2.5 c sugar (can be adjusted depending on ripeness of melon)
1 tsp salt
Juice from 1/4 – 1/2 lemon

Peel and seed the melon, cut up the flesh.  Mix the sugar and water and bring to a boil.  Pour hot syrup over the cut fruit.  Puree syrup and melon in a blender a few cups at a time, and strain into a pot or bowl through a fine sieve.  Season the syrup with the salt and lemon juice to taste.  Use to make great Italian sodas, top ice cream, or for anything that’s delicious with melon!

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