Creamy, Icy, Colombian explosion

Inspired by last week’s Serious Eats post on the best cholados in Queens, I decided to venture out to Jackson Heights to pick up a Cholado. What’s there to lose? I’m in the area anyway to pick up my driving certificate from driving school. Despite being 15 blocks out of the way (read: 82nd street instead of 67th street), it was WELL worth the additional walking distance.

A Cholado, as I learned last week, is a summery drink and dessert from Colombia that shares similarities to Taiwanese Ice, or Filipino Halo Halo. It starts off with a base of shaved ice, fruit syrup, chopped fruit, and condensed milk – just like their Taiwanese and Filipino counterparts, but naturally the proportions and fruit mixtures differ. Colombian cholados are traditionally topped with maraschino cherries and a rolled cookie.

I knew that this was going to be an adventure as soon as I stepped out the 82nd Street station. The street was packed with families, street vendors, and people enjoying their Sunday off by hanging out on stoops, or buckets on the curb. The most interesting sight? A street vendor, chatting with a customer while turning enormous skewers of meat on a portable grill she’d made out of a a grocery cart filled with hot coals and roasting pans.

One of the things I appreciate the most when going out to eat is the care and pride that some people take in making (or crafting, whichever you prefer) their food. The woman who made my drink, for example, was one of those people. The making of a cholado is time-consuming and very messy if you’re not careful.

The process begins by crushing the cubes into fluffy snow with a sno-cone machine and catching it in a cup. She then drizzles unsweetened maracuya (passion fruit), mora (berry) syrup and a layer of condensed milk on top, and that partially melts the the ice at the bottom. It melts just enough to press in a cup-full of tangy, crunchy mango chunks, bits of pineapple, cantaloupe, honeydew, and chopped strawberries. To top it off, she added a sprinkling of shredded coconut, sliced a quarter of a banana in by hand, drizzled massive amounts of condensed milk, and finished it with not only a maraschino cherry, but also a rolled cookie.

The verdict? IT WAS AMAZING. And surprisingly not as tooth-achingly sweet as I expected it to be. The unsweetened syrups balanced the condensed milk by giving it a little tart kick, and I enjoyed mixing up the fruit after drinking away the slush. It took me just under an hour to finish the whole thing, and I must say it was one VERY filling dessert.

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