Updated: Jun 25
With the popularity of cooking shows on platforms streamed internationally, there has been a rise in food tourism and a boom in interest for uniquely flavoured, artisanal ice creams. The absolute best cooking competition, Masterchef Australia (where all the contestants are kind to each other) has seen many contestants succeed based on the strength of their chamomile, curry, or Sichuan ice creams. Listed below are a few samplings from around the world, along with a few distinct and odd flavour combinations.
According to the Ben and Jerry website, there are ten synonyms for ice cream that are far sexier to drop into casual conversations about ice cream than the words 'ice cream'. But the usually culturally adept company drops the ball slightly here as there are over 7000 languages in the world, and ice cream is sexy everywhere.
There is ice cream everywhere, and usually, it goes by a different name. Finland enjoys JÄÄTELO, and in Holland, they eat ISJSJE. In Sweden, they eat GLASS, but I guess that is another story altogether. The always amorous French and snobbery-infused five-star chefs call it CRÈME GLACÉE, and HELADO rolls dreamily off the Spanish tongue. And yes, there is ice cream in Africa! Afrikaans, possibly the most confusing fusion of Dutch, German and who-knows-what, calls ice cream ROOMYS, while Xhosa speakers in the same country use as many letters in the alphabet as possible to call it UCWAMBU LOMKHENKE. And let us never forget Italy, the home of GELATO, SPUMONE, TORTONI, SEMI-FREDDO, and AFFOGATO. All extremely sexy variations on the frozen cream and sugar treat.
DONDURMA from Turkey and BOOZA from the Levant (Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, and Palestine) combine crème, whipped crème and sugar with mastic (plant resin) and salep (ground orchid roots) to create a mastic, chewy dairy delight. Making dondurma is almost a performance art as vendors, often sporting traditional Ottoman clothing, use long poles or paddles to churn the mixture. They then tease the buyer by presenting the cone, then snatching it with the long pole, before finally releasing it to the customer. Such shenanigans!
Sticking with the Levant, the word halva, is derived from halwa in Arabic, meaning sweet confection and dates back to 3000 BCE. Halva can be made by mixing grains, seeds, or nuts with sugar into a paste. Halva ice cream combines halva with ice cream, pistachios, and honey for a frosty treat.
If you prefer your confection labour-intensive, then I Tim Pad from Thailand is the way to go. There are western versions of I Tim Pad in a shopping mall near you. It's the loud, labour-intensive ice cream shop where a vendor pours cream onto a cold surface and then beats the crap out of it with a couple of paint chippers until it is a familiar creamy consistency. In Thailand, the frozen crème is rolled up off the surface and served jelly-roll style. The flash-freezing of the crème allows it to be more fruity in flavour.
If you enjoy a stick, try a KULFI from India. This is dense, and milk-based, flavoured with mango, pistachio, cardamom and saffron, and shaped in a cone. Kulfi looks too good to waste on the kids. With saffron priced at over 75 GBP a gram and more expensive than gold, it actually is too good to waste on the kids.
For those who are calorie counting: A. Don't be so boring, B. Live a little, and C, try a fruit-flavoured ES DOGER from Indonesia. This treat uses coconut milk rather than cow's mile and is lower in fat than ice cream.
Vegans can have fun all day long with frozen confectionary from Japan and Malaysia. KAKIGORI and ES KACANG are shaved ice, topped with fruit flavoured syrups and other accoutrements such as nuts and jellies. These treats are often drizzled with condensed milk, so vegan friends, tell them to hold the drizzle. PATSINGBU from South Korea presents shaved ice topped with sweetened red bean paste as an ice-sundae type treat. You can also add fresh fruit and MOCHI jellies.
MOCHI, DAIFUKU, and DANGO can also be vegan. The recognisable little balls of fun are glutinous rice or rice flour rolled, flavoured and dusted with corn flour. Daifuku is mochi filled with sweetened red bean paste or fruits.
And if fun is what you are after with your ice cream, look no further than the SPAGHETTIES, the confectionary masterwork of...Germany. Common on both sides of the no longer existing wall, spaghettis are vanilla ice cream run through a spätzle press so that they resemble noodles. Strawberry sauce resembles tomato sauce, while white chocolate crumble masquerades as Parmesan cheese. I don't understand any of this is happening, except that it looks fun for the kids.
Worth 1000 LOLs, the J-CONE from Korea (yes, I know that you are asking why not the K-Kone, as in K-Drama, K-Pop, K-BBQ, and K-imchi) must be one of the most ridiculous confectionaries on offer. One look at the J-Cone, a Kandy Kane-shaped puff Korn shell, exploding top and bottom with vanilla ice cream, explains it all.
What one should never do is combine buffalo milk, coconut milk, ice, eggs, ube (yams) and cheese and serve it on bread as a sandwich. But that is precisely what the SORBETEROS with colourful wooden carts decorating the streets of Manila are selling, and business booms!
There has been a culinary push recently to sophisticate ice creams. To take it from a big-fat, dripping cone of frozen milk, if lucky, topped with a hard shell of chocolate, or perhaps sprinkles or 'jimmies' if you are from Pittsburgh, and turn it into haute cuisine. This is very evident from the plethora of artisanal creameries, gelato maestros and adventurous chefs that will add just about anything to the ice cream machine.
George's Fish Bar on Portobello Road London was for a while offering a fish and chips flavoured variety*. Ruby Violet does a variety of alcohol-infused treats, like Elderflower and Prosecco, Blood Orange and Campari, and Oa Lap-sang Whisky Toffee to go along with her fruit-based yums on offer. They also do cranberry and stilton which, while I might not want cheese in my ice cream, do look very sexy on the website.
RUBY VIOLET ICE CREAM AND SORBET, LONDON
Tapi Tapi, in Observatory, Cape Town, South Africa uses fresh, indigenous ingredients and flavour combinations that are unique and change daily. My favourite is frangipani and chilli.
Tapiwa Guzha, the founder of Tapi Tapi sees itself as an educational initiative that is focused on sharing food and food culture from the African continent.
Ben and Bill's Chocolate Emporium in Bar Harbour, Maine, sells lobster ice cream. The Highland Folk Museum in Newtonmore, Scotland, for some reason boasts that they are the first business to sell porridge-flavoured ice cream. And sticking with Scotland, the Aldwych Cafe** received a lot of press when they launched 'Respirio Del Divalo' (the Devil's Breath) to those willing souls over age 18 or younger with a signed waiver or parental guidance. Ice cream was made so hot with chilli, that the scoopers wore protective gloves just to serve it out. And the Kiwi's, not content with naming their number one ice cream treat after a roller-rink classic dance (hokey poky), came up with a caviar and sour blueberry concoction that is sure to make even the most overly injected face pucker.
With good ingredients, a blast chiller, liquid nitrogen if you fancy yourself Heston Blumenthal, an ice cream maker, or even an old-fashioned hand-crank tub, anyone can become a gelato maestro. Grab some milk, or milk substitute, toss in some black garlic and avocado, top with balsamic vinegar, garnish with fresh basil, and you have yourself a gourmet dinner/after dinner combo treat.
Me, I'll stick with vanilla because garlic breath after ice cream is anything but sexy.
*The Fish and Chips flavoured ice cream was not on their board when I visited. Perhaps it is a summer affair!
**Aldwych Cafe's website sadly now reads permanently closed. Good luck to them.
***most images were stolen from the internet. sorry.
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