australian cook zen ngo honed his culinary skills at some of the world’s finest restaurants, including Bentley Restaurant and Bar in Australia and internships at wd~50 in New York and Coi in San Francisco, and was instrumental in introducing fine dining in the United States with its successful INDA pop-up dinners in a bid to connect with its South Asian heritage, as well as show foodies that Indonesian cuisine is more than just “cheap street food” . Now he’s turning his talents and skills towards one of the most classic treats: ice cream!
Awan, which translates to “cloud” in Bahasa Indonesian, is Ong’s special brand of ice cream that actually skips the cream part in favor of a mix of Indonesian coconut water and coconut cream. coco, creating a non-dairy frozen dessert that’s heavy on flavor and smooth and airy in texture (hence the apt name!).
It was right here in Los Angeles, at the Asian EP and LP hot spot, where Ong worked as a pastry chef determined to give diners a more unique dessert experience than just the average, “trendy” offering you can find in literally any other dining room fine. Working and experimenting with less traditional ingredients, Ong made a name for himself big enough to become a chef and gained the clout needed to make his INDA pop-ups really take off.
Ong was ready to open his first brick-and-mortar restaurant in 2020 when COVID hit and completely changed his plans, leading to his sweet new venture. “2020 was a real test of creativity as it was the first time in my career where a traditional restaurant model/service was no longer needed,” says Ong, “I had always dreamed of first opening a restaurant with the goal of earning a Michelin Star (no Indonesian restaurant has ever achieved this goal), creating brand integrity, and then launching brand-related products, such as marinades and spice mixes, and one of them was Awan.
And it didn’t take long for Awan to become a huge underground hit in LA. Locals can experience Ong’s unique concoction — which includes a specially imported Balinese vanilla — by visiting a walk-in window in West Hollywood Monday through Friday from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. , and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 10 p.m. The original vanilla bean flavor is still on hand, but Ong also offers new flavors made with market-fresh and locally sourced ingredients. And for those who can’t make it to WeHo, they’ve also launched local and national shipping orders. Stock is limited, so buy it while you can!
What’s next for Awan? NGO, with its business partner Tohm Ifergan (which owns Dayglow Cafe in WeHo, Silver Lake and now Chicago), hopes to expand its small walk-up to include more menu items, including more daily toppings, magic seashells, cones and handhelds , and beverages like tea and coffee with the aim of “providing a complete experience for people to catch up with friends and hang out.”
For Ong personally, he hopes that the success of this venture will lead to his ultimate goal of making Indonesian cuisine more respected among his colleagues. “The main message with all of this for me is to show the public that Southeast Asian food, especially Indonesian food, can be considered luxury food,” he says, “I hope “With every project and food product I work on, it will inspire the next generation of Indonesian chefs to want to do the same and explore their rich food culture and pass it on to the next.