Ice Candy: A Brief History On Our Favourite Childhood Snack
It's a lovely feeling to reminisce on childhood. In the Philippines, one ubiquitous aspect of youth is all the snacks we ate during merienda or lunch. For myself, one of my favourites was ice candy. There are vivid memories still lingering in my mind of lining up during lunch hour at the canteen in order to buy colourful ice candies for twenty pesos a pop. I could break it down the middle and share it with a friend, both of us happy to suckle on some frozen ice and food colouring. It was a simple joy.
Ice Pops Versus Ice Candy
Because ice candy is so uniquely Filipino, it's difficult to find sources on its origin. However, some people do speculate that it was inspired by the American ice pop or popsicle. This doesn't seem particularly farfetched considering the close ties we have with the United States. Though the popsicle was an accidental creation—discovered by Frank Epperson after he'd left a mixture of soda powder with water outside overnight in 1905—it eventually became a local and global success. However, there are stark differences between the ice pop and the ice candy. As with pretty much everything, Filipinos have found a way to make the dessert uniquely their own.
While popsicles are often featured with wooden sticks in order to hold them, ice candy is much, much simpler. Most of the time, kids eat them straight out of the plastic bag in which it is frozen. American ice pops also sometimes come in patriotic shades of red, white, and blue. Their flavours are more Western as well, with orange, cherry, and grape being among the most popular.
Ice candy is, once again, much more straightforward in comparison. The ones sold in sari-sari stores, or at school, are sometimes less distinguishable by flavour than they are by colour. I have fond memories of racing to the cafeteria in the hopes to find the "blue flavoured" ice candy still there (though my best friend would argue that "yellow" was much more delicious).
Other popular flavour options in the Philippines often include chocolate (Milo or Ovaltine are favourites) and summertime fruits. It's not uncommon see avocado or melon ice candies, mango ice candies, and especially buko (coconut) ice candies. Some people even use red bean in theirs.
How To Make Your Own
Creating your own ice candy is definitely as simple as it looks. Truth be told, there's no one right recipe—it really depends on your preference. Some people prefer to add coconut milk or cream alongside condensed milk, while others prefer to stick to simple fruit juice. A few even suggest adding cornstarch!
For packaging, there are special ice candy plastic bags are often sold in stores in the Philippines (or in ethnic shops abroad). They're often much more narrow than ordinary bags, though tube bags can be used as well.