As a friend likes to point out, summer—with its steamy humidity and lazy beach days—is far from over. With that in mind here are seven of my favorite international frozen treats from Indonesian and Thai shaved ices and South American slushies to old-school American ice cream for you to enjoy
1. Pitaya nieves, Los Poblanos Grocery
Nieves, literally snows, are a wonderful frozen Mexican treat. With flavors like lip-puckering tamarind; refreshing melon; and jamaica, or tart hibisicus flowers, it’s easy to think of them as a frozen version of the auguas frescas that many vendors lining Roosevelt Avenue sell. There are many nieves sellers on La Roosie, but thankfully my peeps at Food & Footprints turned me on to one the best, Los Poblanos Grocery. On my first visit I had a jamaica, scarlet and refreshing and on my second, I had pitaya, better known as prickly pear. The tart red snow was shot through with crunchy seeds making it even more fun to eat. Los Poblanos Grocery, 92-19 Roosevelt Avenue, Jackson Heights
2. Naem kaeng sai, Teacup Cafe
When I was a kid I was always jealous of one of my cousins who had the Snoopy Sno Cone machine. We never played with it, no doubt because the novelty had worn off. I trace my fascination with shaved ice to that unrequited desire for frozen confections. Now that I’m all grown up, there’s no better way for me to fulfill that childhood wish than Thai shaved ice or naem kang sai. As served at Teacup Cafe, it has enough sugar and toppings for a kid’s birthday party.
First choose your syrup—red or green—and then pick from eleven toppings. The red syrup, an artificial take on the sala fruit is floral and ultrasweet as is the green, which resembles cream soda. Toppings include taro, black grass jelly, pudding, corn, mixed fruit, coconut, palm seeds, red beans, toddy palm seeds, jackfruit, and popping bubbles. Three toppings will run you $4, but for the princely sum of $5.50 you can get all of the toppings. The result is an arctic explosion of colors, textures, and flavors. Teacup Cafe, 76-23 Woodside Ave., Elmhurst, Phone: (718) 426-2222
3. Matcha shake shake, 969 NYC Coffee
I’ve been meaning to get to Mitsumine Oda’s Japanese cafe for months and the recent New York Times review finally spurred me to get over there. While I enjoyed the katsudon sandwich thingy well enough, what really blew me away was the Matcha Shake Shake, a combination of green tea, ice, and sweetened condensed milk with a scoop of ice cream—either red bean, matcha, or black sesame. I went with a double dose of matcha and chose green tea. I think Oda calls his frosty concoctions “shake shake” because they are extra thick. After all life’s too short for low water pressure and thin milk shakes. Next time I’m getting avocado with black sesame ice cream. 969 NYC Coffee, 37-65 80th St., Jackson Heights, (646) 203-7304
4. Es doger, NY Indonesian Food Bazaar
The monthly Indonesian Food Bazaars that have been taking place at the St. James Parish House this summer have been pretty much my go-to food event in Queens. There’s all manner of Indonesian delicacies, including frosty Indonesian desserts. My new favorite is Dapur Tios’ es doger, a combination of sweet icy pink milk; black and pink tapioca pearls; fermented black rice; and avocado among other things. On August 26 the festival goes on the road, that road being 68th Street between Madison and Fifth Avenues, home of the Consulate General of Indonesia. And on September 10, it returns to Elmhurst.
5. Maracuya raspado, El Bohio Grocery Slushie Man
Sure Corona has its Lemon Ice King, but it also has a gent I like to call El Rey del Raspado. For as long as I can remember he’s had a stand outside El Bohio Grocery. The bodega is gone but the schuss schuss schuss of the shaver as it scrapes across a crystal clear block of ice lives on.
The crowd pleaser at this summertime staple is the frambuesa, so named for a fuchsia-colored syrup that’s supposed to taste like raspberries. Along with a squirt of condensed milk its a day-glo version of summer, icy cold and packed with a magnificent sugar rush. I’ve been branching out and trying other flavors, notably the tart and sweet maracuya, or passion fruit. El Bohio Grocery, 98-17 Roosevelt Ave, Corona, 347-527-2538
6. Thai Coconut Ice Cream, Hug Esan
For such a small restaurant with a brief menu there are many things to love about Hug Esan. I am especially enamored of the terse descriptions like “homemade coconut ice cream,” which turns out to be more of Thai ice cream sundae. A scoop of ice cream is topped with roasted peanuts, jackfruit, white bread, chewy toddy palm seeds, and strips of jackfruit. Dig deeper though and you’ll discover that the whole lot sits atop some pandan scented sticky rice. Hug Esan, 77-16 Woodside Ave., Elmhurst, (929) 328-0392
7. White and dark chocolate ice cream, Aigner Chocolates
Many candy stores and chocolate shops in Queens and New York City, including the wonderful Schmidt’s in Woodhaven, started out offering ice cream as well. Recently Aigner Chocolates, which has been in Forest Hills for generations began offering ice cream. Get a black and white; half creamy white chocolate and half dark chocolate. It comes with a complimentary “cat tongue” of dark or milk chocolate. Best of all you can make a DIY sundae by purchasing some buttercrunch to crumble over the top. Aigner Chocolates, 103-02 Metropolitan Avenue, Forest Hills, (718) 544-1850