Posted on October 24 2014
Raspados, piraguas, granizados, raspadinha and Hawaiian shave ice are the same concept; shaved ice (ice flakes) topped with sweet syrup. These are different than Italian frappes which add syrup and ice to a blender to mix and different than American snow cones which crush the ice and compact it. And different than the Spanish granizado or Italian granita which are a mixture of water and frozen sweet syrup, taken out of the freezer every few hours to break the ice crystals. All have their roots in Japan and India, the first users of ice mixed with sweet syrups.
On my California farm we always have sweet syrups on hand, Mexicans call it almíbar. The most popular are milk, guava, jamaica (hibiscus), tamarind and sometimes pineapple. In Mexico they can be topped with fresh fruit, candied fruit, dried fruit, vegetables, chiles, caramel and ice cream … yes, all at once! These raspado shops have become so popular in Mexico that you can find them plentiful in California. I grew up enjoying raspados (part of the reason I was a big/happy girl) made with real fruit instead of thinned out flavored syrups which I see used in piraguas and shave ices. Instead of a sweet blue watery syrup, I had my ice with chunks of sweet guava. The type common in Mexico and in my house are more akin to fruit preserves that are thin enough to pour.
I officially announce that after tasting flavored ices in Puerto Rico, Cuba, Guatemala, Belize, Panama, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Italy, and the USA - Mexico wins. By a long shot. Firstly, the ice must be scraped,shaved, rasped from a solid cube to get the correct consistency and Mexico always does this. Secondly the syrups have to start with a mixture of real fruit, nuts, spices and sugar. Not flavored waters made with flavored powders. When you see the raspado seller in Mexico, most of his syrups have fresh fruit or nuts in them. Please see image below as proof.
I found this person in Oaxaca City, note every syrup has fruit or nuts. Starting on the right, nance, pecans with sweet milk, shredded coconut with coconut milk, strawberries with milk, strawberries in water, pineapple. And at the end in the plastic bottles is Chamoy - a sweet, sour, spicy sauce that is optional as a final topping on your raspado.
When you bump into one of these shops you will see hundreds of menu possibilities with fun names like chamango, diablito, mangoneada, chamarindo, etc. This image is from Maxi Raspados in Visalia, California. Your best bet to find one of these gems in the USA is Los Angeles.
In New York you can find shave ice at the Long Island City flea market. City Riders NYC uses a bicycle to power the ice machine which is fun to watch and mind blowing for children. I tried their tamarind; it was very refreshing and yummy, more in the style of American snow cone with a flavored syrup.
You can also find People’s Pops all over New York; I only visit them at the Brooklyn Smorgasburg on a hot day. Although their specialty is popsicles they crank out the shaved ice for the summer. Their flavored syrups are fresh, fun and local; you are more likely to see a very light lemon mint instead of a heavy guava or mango preserve.
But Fany Gerson of La Newyorkina has moved into New York City and is dominating the scene with her Mexican sweets and snacks so if you need a raspado please look for her.
In Guatemala they are called granizados. Their toppings consists of real fruit chunks and an additional splash of flavored syrup and sweetened condensed milk. I really wanted to take one of these machines home but my luggage was already full of chocolate.
This one below is a caramelized bananas granizado with blackberry syrup and sweetened condensed milk. This was in Puerto Barrios, Guatemala.
The secret weapon is to own a raspador. You can buy one anywhere in Mexico or Los Angeles or you can order online for about $20us: Ice Shaver Manual Raspador De Hielo Snow Cones Stainless Steel Heavy Duty NEW.
You can find the blocks of ice at your local grocery store; I am not sure what they are used for other than making raspados. You can also make your own block of ice if you have the space in the freezer. It is not the same to blend ice in a blender. The consistency is not appropriate. It has to be SHAVED or RASPED... hence the names shave ice and raspados.
This machine below I found in Cobán, Guatemala.
This one below I found in Guayaquil, Ecuador. This style of machine seems to have it's origin in Japan.
On the farm we only use the hand held raspador.
My favorite flavor is guayaba; I will post the recipe below. Later I will include the recipe for tamarind, jamaica, leche and piña.
Almíbar de Guayaba | Recipe
1 can of guavas (28oz) the can will say ‘Guayabas en almíbar’ or 10 fresh guavas.
2 liters of water
2 cups of sugar
1/2 sugar (burnt)
1.Place the guavas, guava syrup that comes in the can, water, and sugar in a large pot. You can mash the guavas a bit; this is completely up to you; I like to bite into guava chunks in my raspado but you many not really like that.
2.Boil until it thickens, about 1 hour on medium heat.
3.When it thickens, place the 1/2 cup of sugar in a pan and burn it over medium heat (like burning sugar for flan), once it all melts and turns a dark golden color pour it into the guava pot that is still boiling. This step is to give the mix a deeper flavor and color.
4.You can’t mess this up. You can add a little more or less sugar, you can add vanilla or cinnamon to flavor it further. The only thing that can ruin this recipe is burning it. So watch it and stir constantly.
5.Once it is a thick consistency set aside to cool then refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.
You can also check out my recipe for Tomatillo Shave Ice here.