Finally, a statement we can all agree on: Ice cream is a chilled delight that’s celebrated across the globe.
Food historians don’t have a definitive answer on when or where the first batch of ice cream was created, but some have surmised that something very similar to what we now know as ice cream was first served up in China during the Tang Dynasty (A.D. 618 to 906).
No matter where or when it was born, ice cream is a hugely popular dessert all over the world. It comes in many different forms and flavors, depending on local palates and available ingredients.
Here, we list several types of ice cream varieties that are enjoyed by different cultures, each with its own unique spin on the creamy confection:
Italy churns out a lot of its beloved gelato — 157 million gallons a year — for locals and the overseas market. It’s a hugely popular tasty treat that’s much like typical ice cream with ingredients like sugar, milk and cream. But properly made gelato uses a greater proportion of milk and has no egg yolks. As a result, you get a dense, thick and flavorful mouthful of bliss. Popular flavors include vanilla, chocolate, pistachio, hazelnut and stracciatella, vanilla ice cream studded with shaved chocolate. Gelato is such a national treasure in Italy that the government wants to crack down on producers who serve up gelato made with artificial ingredients and puffed up with air. Offenders may be fined more than 12,000 euros — the equivalent of nearly $15,000 — if the bill passes.
To survive hot muggy days in Manila, it helps to order a cone of sorbetes from a street hawker pulling a colorful hard cart. This frozen treat resembles American ice cream, though traditional sorbetes is made at times with milk from the carabao (a native water buffalo), coconut milk and cassava flour. It comes in several popular flavors such as ube (a purple yam with a mild, nutty flavor), mango, coconut, jackfruit and chocolate. Keso sorbetes is studded with cheese nuggets. You eat sorbetes in a wafer cone or enjoy it à la ice cream sandwich: inside a pandesal, a salty, sweet bread roll.
Kulfi, India’s homegrown ice cream, is a fragrant frozen treat that was probably first served during the Mongol Empire in the 16th century. To make authentic kulfi, cooks must simmer fresh milk until it’s thick and has lost half of its volume. This evaporated milk, which will have developed a rich, caramelized flavor, is then mixed with sugar and exotic flavorings such as cardamom, saffron and pistachio before being frozen. Typical kulfi flavors in India and Pakistan include rose, mango and lychee. New wave flavors of strawberry and avocado have also become popular. In the streets of India, you can easily snag kulfi from a street vendor at popular tourist spots and have it dressed with a coating of nuts and other toppings.
Stretchy, dense and resistant to melting, Turkey’s dondurma is the country’s delicious answer to ice cream. It’s a frozen treat made with milk, cream and sugar but Turks give it their own spin with the inclusion of mastic tree sap that imparts a piney flavor, and salep, powder ground from the tuber of a local purple orchid. Salep — as well as extensive kneading with a long metal stick — is what gives dondurma its distinctive texture and elastic qualities. Dondurma comes in vanilla, chocolate, cherry, mint and mulberry and is typically served in a cone. It’s a common sight at dondurma stalls for workers to pull pranks with customers; they perform sleight-of-hand tricks, teasing customers by giving them a cone, only to take it away and then give it back again.
Italians started to immigrate to Argentina in the 18th century, but the flow of people reached its peak from the late 19th century to the second half of the 20th century, adding an Italian accent to the country’s chorus of immigrants and indigenous people. Italy’s gelato morphed into Argentina’s beloved helado, a tasty frozen dessert — still dense but lighter than its ancestor. Helado is huge in Argentina, where it can be delivered to your home past midnight. Popular traditional flavors are dulce de leche, chocolate, Nutella, crema (vanilla) and sambayón, a custardy Italian cream with egg yolks, sugar and Marsala wine. Newer, trendy flavors include mojito and mascarpone.