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Street Food Delights: Gambian Ice

My Magazine 2024/04
2 min
If you have been to The Gambia, you would have seen ladies on the roadside, outside schools or even around the markets selling what the locals call the Gambian Ice. This popular street dessert, not to be mistaken for the typical ice cream is a unique Gambian treat made from natural fruit juices, frozen in plastic bags or bottles.

This delightful treat, similar to ice cream but locally known as 'ice,' is an affordable and easily accessible thirst quencher for people on the go. The flavours are diverse, with each offering a distinct taste and experience: kaba, ginger, tamarind, baobab, hibiscus (wonjo), ditakh, and even milk.

The Art of Making Gambian Ice

Creating each flavour of Gambian Ice involves a meticulous process where the essence of fruits is captured in its purest form. Preparation involves similar steps across different flavours, primarily differing in the initial juice preparation. The juice is then sealed in bags or poured into bottles and frozen.

Baobab Ice, or 'Ice bouyi,' begins with soaking the baobab fruit, whose rich, velvety contents are stirred into water and sieved to remove seeds. Sugar, milk powder and essences are added to enhance the flavour of the creamy delight.

Wonjo, made from dried hibiscus and appreciated for its therapeutic benefits, is made by boiling or soaking it. It is cherished for its deep, tangy flavour and enhanced with strawberry and vanilla essences.

The ginger variant, revered for its health properties, involves pounding fresh ginger into a paste, extracting its juice, and then sweetening it to create a zesty refreshment that doubles as a tonic.

Tamarind and Ditakh Ice follow similar infusion, mashing, and straining methods. But each carries the signature of its fruit—tamarind with its piercing sweet-sour profile and Ditakh with its subtle, sweet undertones and a beautiful green colour. Ditakh is made from the fruit of the Detarium senegalense tree.

Meanwhile, Ice Kaba, available only during the kaba season, encapsulates the tartness of kaba fruit in its icy embrace. However, this process varies slightly as the kaba fruit is pounded with water, sugar, and essence without removing the seeds.

Milk Ice

Milk ice, often referred to as ice cream, is made with local creamed milk mixed with just the right amount of water, sugar, and essence and frozen to create a smooth, creamy texture that is different from its fruity counterparts.

Cultural Reflection and Accessibility

Affordably priced, with small servings costing as little as GMD5 and larger portions for GMD10 or bottled versions priced GMD25, GMD50 and GMD100, Gambian Ice is more than just a treat—it's a reflection of Gambian resourcefulness and a testament to the simple joys of life in The Gambia.

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