For many — perhaps even most — Americans, ice cream is a part of regular life. In fact, the average American is expected to consume ice cream 28.5 times a year. Ice cream is a soft, sweet treat that comes in a variety of flavors. Often, ice cream is one of the first “real” foods fed to a baby, due to its inoffensive nature and its softness. There’s something classic about ice cream, and it’s one of the few near-universal treats across the world. For example, you may not be able to find certain brands of candy bars across the world — but you certainly will be able to find ice cream across the world, if perhaps under a different name and with a slightly different consistency. In fact, 90% of American households regularly indulge in sweet, frozen treats. But then, there are a number of different frozen, sweet treats across the world; altogether, they are largely a lot like ice cream! From gelato to sorbet, you can taste a variety of different flavors and consistencies globally. By doing something as simple as picking up a plastic tasting spoon, you can transport yourself to a different country through taste. While vanilla remains the most popular ice cream flavor in the U.S. — at 28% according to a recent poll — other countries might have a different perspective. So: you might want to grab that plastic tasting spoon, because we’re going to look at different types of ice cream across the world.
Gelato is probably the most widely type of “ice cream” known to Americans that isn’t, in fact, American. In fact, although gelato is Italian, some American ice cream brands now sell their own forms of gelato. Many Italians would refute this gelato as inauthentic, and with good reason. Italy has a number of artisanal gelato companies. Gelato shop owners will often proudly offer a plastic tasting spoon loaded with one flavor, and then the next. They’re confident that tasters will find a flavor that they love, and buy a gelato cup. The differences between gelato and ice cream are subtle, but important. In containing less air and more milkfat than ice cream, gelato tastes richer and has a creamier texture than ice cream. Flavors also tend to be more classic among traditional gelato makers, while American ice cream is bolder, and oftentimes “wackier”.
2. Ais Kacang
Unlike gelato, ais kacang is probably nothing that you’ve ever seen on a plastic tasting spoon before. This sweet treat is traditionally made in Singapore, and has a similar look to ice cream — and a similar purpose — but a different makeup. Originally, it was just made with shaved ice and red beans, the latter of which is common in many Asian desserts. It’s now usually brightly colored, offered with fruit cocktails and dressings — in everything from food courts to restaurants. It often contains sweet corn, grass jelly, and much more as ingredients. Evaporated milk, condensed milk, and coconut milk are also often included, as well as syrups. Chocolate syrup is included sometimes, perhaps as a result of the popularity of ice cream sundaes across the world.
Native to the Indian Subcontinent, kulfi has an ancient history. It’s seen by many as Indian ice cream, but there are certain differences that mark it as unique. Made through slow cooking, it involved evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk. Its caramelization and slow cooking process give it a distinct flavor, which is often enhanced through the additions of dried fruit. Even the freezing of kulfi is slow, marking it as an artisanal product in the eyes of many. Kulfi is rarely seen without garnishes. These can include dried fruit, vermicelli noodles, and pistachio nuts. Syrups are common with this dish. On can only imagine what a relief it must be during a hot Indian summer!
Clearly, ice cream is defined in many ways. One thing is certain: we can’t live without our frozen sweet treats!
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