Ice Creams Around the World
With the summer sun blazing and temperatures rising, it's only natural to seek the reprieve of a frozen dessert. Ice cream doesn't feel juvenile when the world is melting around you, it feels necessary. My personal preference is a sugar cone stacked a mile high with a combination of ice cream scoops that I have selected with agonizing thought and deliberation. There are many a tasting spoons left in my wake when it comes to me and ice cream.
But there's always that moment when the ice cream is gone. That last bite - it's so delicious, yet so very sad. Recently, I found myself in this state of emotional turmoil, and I started thinking, do other people around the world love ice cream as much as I do?
It turns out, the answer is yes. Except ice cream doesn't look the same the world over. From frozen beans doused in algae jelly to stretchy ice cream spun on a stick, here is a look at how ice cream is enjoyed around the world.
Malaysia: Ais Kacang Translated literally as “iced beans”, ais kacang (“ice ka-chang”) was originally made only out of shaved ice and red beans. Nowadays the sky’s the limit, and a seemingly limitless number of syrups and toppings can be thrown on - sweet corn, grass jelly and agar agar (a jelly made from algae), to name a few. Referenced frequently throughout the interweb as a “flamboyant” dessert, I feel like this is one of those desserts that really needs to be tasted before judgement can be passed.
New Zealand: Real Fruit Ice Cream Compared to ais kacang, the Kiwi riff on ice cream is downright mundane. But it made the list, if nothing else because I fell in love with real fruit ice cream when I was in New Zealand. The joy of real fruit ice cream is in the process as much as the taste. Just name your fruit and scoops of it will be tossed, along with bricks of vanilla ice cream, into a large funnel. Down comes a giant drill bit, churning and extruding a creamy, fruity swirl that is rich and decadent. An added bonus is that you can tell yourself that it's healthy because it's packed with real fruit.
Taiwan: Snow Ice Snow ice is essentially the love child of ice cream and shave ice. Born from a frozen block of sweetened cream, the process is not unlike that of shaving meat for a doner kebab. Except with snow ice the result is delicate, ribbon-like sheets of ice cream that pile up into a mountain of deliciousness. Drizzled with sauces or syrups, sprinkled with nuts or candy, Snow Ice is a rich and creamy dessert that feels as light as air.
Thailand: “Stir Fried” Ice Cream To fully appreciate Thai “stir fried” ice cream, you have to see the process in action. I almost don’t want to spoil the surprise, but if I don't, I won't have anything to write about. Watching the creamy liquid and toppings go from a soupy, chunky mess to a creamy blend, and then finally shaved up into beautiful curls is something you have to see to believe. Finding stir fried ice cream will absolutely be the first thing I do when I visit Thailand one day.
Turkey: Dondurma Literally translated as “freezing” in Turkish, dondurma is notable for being a stretchy, melt-resistant ice cream. Admittedly, that feels a little sci-fi to me, but I’m intrigued. Apparently the stretchiness comes from the use of mastic, which is a gum-like resin, and the resistance to melting is due to salep, flour made from the root of the early purple orchid. So even though it doesn't seem normal to have stretchy ice cream that doesn't melt, it's totally natural. Dondurma just got bumped from science experiment to cultural experience in my book.
Like Thailand's stir fried ice cream, the process of making dondurma doubles as a street act. Using a long pole, the ice cream is pulled from its frozen tub and swung through the air, stretching like taffy before being placed back in its freezer. Also like stir fried ice cream, the process needs to be seen to be believed.
United States: Philadelphia Style Here in the United States, the cultural and culinary melting pot of the world, we are lucky to have a plethora of ice creams at our fingertips. One can travel the world through ice cream just by standing in the Trader Joe’s freezer section alone. But did you know that there is a true “American” style ice cream? Also known as “Philadelphia style” ice cream, the qualifier is that it’s made without eggs. Named for the historically dairy-rich city, one of the original big players in Philadelphia style ice cream was none other than Breyers. In 1854, Mr. William Breyer was a simple Philadelphian on a mission to make ice cream using what he considered to be only the purest ingredients - milk, cream and sugar. A morality war on egg-based ice cream ensued and we banished the sinful eggs to the French and Italian ice creams.
Want to try Philadelphia style ice cream but looking for something a touch more exciting than Breyer's? Check out Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream - one part artistry, one part ice cream genius, it is Philadelphia style ice cream at it's finest.