In places like Houston and New Orleans, and areas of Mexico and Asia, ice is a preferred panacea for the brutal summer heat. This need to cool off has resulted in the invention of some amazingly creative concoctions featuring shaved/crushed ice and various flavors/toppings. The snow cones we all enjoy at summer Little League games, featuring tooth-shattering chunks of ice and mystery chemical flavorings, are only the beginning. Snoballs from New Orleans, shaved ice from Taiwan and raspados from Mexico are all culturally-inspired ice treats available in Houston. Here are a few well-known variations for you to try this summer.
The New Orleans-style snoball features more finely-granulated ice and often 30-40 flavor toppings from which to choose. In Houston, the place to get this style of ice treat is at Mam’s House of Ice in the Heights. Open only in the summer, this tiny trailer serves up small, medium and large foam cups with your choice of toppings ranging from the traditional (cherry, blueberry) to the exotic (bubble gum, cotton candy, Cajun red hot). Add some condensed milk to give it a creamier flavor and texture. Personalize it with even more toppings: ice cream, whipped cream and gummy bears are just a few of the choices.
Going farther afield, Taiwanese shaved ice is a staple of Houston’s new Chinatown neighborhood along Bellaire Boulevard. A good place to try this style is Star Snow Ice. Your first visit to this shop can be overwhelming. There is a dizzying array of choices to pile on to the finely shaved ice: various types of sweet beans and jellies, taro root, oatmeal and many types of fruit like mango and cantaloupe. Condensed milk for creaminess is also a tradition here. Tapioca is a favorite topping. A spoonful of brown sugar syrup tops it off. In addition to shaved ice treats, try the fresh fruit smoothies, tapioca milk teas and other types of bubble teas.
In Mexico and the southwest U.S., shaved ice treats are called raspas or raspados (the Spanish word for “scrape” is raspar). There’s really no single source for raspas in Houston as they are so widely available. You may find them at food trucks and impromptu food stalls set up along well-known food streets like Airline Drive or Long Point Road, or part of the menu at a refresqueria (snack and drink stand). Toppings reflect the Mexican heritage for this ice treat, and will often combine spicy hotness with cool sweetness: tamarind, mango, coconut, guava, and the ubiquitous condensed milk (leche condensata).
A great variation on the raspa is the mangonada, which is both a topping for a raspa as well as a separate ice treat. A mangonada raspa will include ice topped with mangos, chile powder and Chamoy. Chamoy is a traditional Mexican pickled fruit sauce that is all at once sweet, sour, spicy and savory. For a standalone mangonada, mangos are pureed and frozen in a plastic cup with a popsicle stick in the middle. Once frozen, the mango is pulled out using the stick, and ingredients like Chamoy, chile powder, salt and lime are sprinkled on top.
Mam’s House of Ice
Rutland and 20th street in the Heights
301 W 20th St, Houston, TX 77008
Star Snow Ice & Teriyaki
9889 Bellaire Blvd
Houston, TX 77036
Posted 9 May 2011 on the www.29-95.com website.