Ice cream, in all its glorious forms, is the best part of summer. Is there anything more fabulous than strolling down the street enjoying a waffle cone packed with your favorite flavor of gelato? No, there’s not. Unless you’re lactose intolerant. Then it’s probably not so fabulous. Not to worry! While you may be deprived of the heaven that is Ben and Jerry’s, you can still enjoy Ais Kacang in Malaysia or Singapore or dive into a scoop of sorbetto while wandering southern Italy. From Dondurma to snow cones, humans have gotten pretty creative with their frozen treat skills over the years. So whether you’re lactose intolerant or not, whether you’re in Jordan, Japan, or Jamaica, the point is that humans like ice cream and wherever you go, you’re sure to encounter some sort of delicious frozen goodness. Here are a few to look out for.
Found throughout India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Burma, Kulfi is a popular dairy dessert made by evaporating sweetened and flavored milk through a slow cooking process. Traditionally mixed with flavors like malai (cream), rose, mango, cardamom, saffron, and pistachio, kulfi can also be found in a variety of other flavors like peanut or avocado. Kulfi is much denser and more granular than ice cream, but that just means it won’t melt as quickly while you’re enjoying a nice summer stroll.
Turkish ice cream, Dondurma, contains flour made from the root of the Early Purple Orchid, known as salep, as well as a resin called mastic. These two ingredients give Dondurma a chewiness and stretchiness that make the ice cream a unique and delicious culinary experience. Typically sold by street vendors, Dondurma is served from a barrel with a long-handled paddle that allows the vendor to keep churning the ice cream in order to keep it workable. The cherry flavor is amazing. Just saying. Variations of this elastic ice cream, made with either salep or Gum Arabic, can be found throughout the Middle East.
This goes without saying, right? You can’t go to Italy and not get gelato. It’s sacrilege. If you’re avoiding the dairy-based desserts, then try the sorbetto. If you’re in Rome, you need to go to San Crispino. Don’t argue. Just go.
Traveling through Malaysia or Singapore? Man, are you in luck! Go outside right now and track down some Ais Kacang or, as it’s also known, ABC (Air Batu Campur). Traditionally made from shaved ice and red beans, Ais Kacang now includes a wide variety of toppings. Typically you can expect to find red beans, sweet corn, palm seed, grass jelly, and cubes of agar agar, but many vendors now offer everything from durian to chocolate syrup. All of this is topped with condensed milk and rose syrup. The result? Amazing.
Mochi Ice Cream
Yes, you can find this in any old Trader Joe’s supermarket, but if you’re feeling a little more adventurous, head to Japan to track down this dough wrapped ice cream treat. Mochi is a dough made from pounding sticky rice. Traditionally used to make treats like daifuku and manjū, it was only a matter of time before someone had the genius idea to replace the azuki bean filling with ice cream. Typical flavors include red bean, mango, or green tea. Down side? You’re going to get the white powdery covering everywhere. Plus side? It’s worth it.