There are Latin rock stars, and then there are Latin snow cones. In places where it gets really flippin' hot, they are the same thing.
As soon as the temps hit 90, social media fills up with towers of red and yellow ice topped with chile powders and loads of fresh fruit. Each video is louder and more outlandish than the last. Cucumbers? That looks tasty. Japanese peanuts? OK, getting some crunch in there. An entire pineapple hollowed out and filled with shaved ice and mango sticks and stringy spaghetti candy? Now that's what I'm talking about.
The Mexican raspado — which refers to the shaving or scraping of ice — is a household name on the West Coast. But in New York this icon is still a little under the radar. Perhaps that's because the playing field is leveled by its Central and South American counterparts, the Guatemalan granizado, the Salvadorean minuta, the Dominican Frio Frio, the Colombian cholado … the list goes on.
Here are some wonderful icy treats you can find across Long Island. And because this whole snow cone stuff can be a little intimidating with the toppings, there's also information on how to order. Stay cool!
Victorias Helado: Mexican raspados and Guatemalan granizados
37 E. Main St., Riverhead
If Hawaiian shaved ice is The Beatles, the Mexican raspado is Pink Floyd. The flavors are loud and uncompromising, savory when you'd think they'd be sweet, and somehow still manage to blow your mind. Mini chains like Dulcemania do a fine job, but the new Victorias Helado in Riverhead makes a spicy mango raspado so good it'll send you to the dark side of the moon. Called a mangonada, the fresh mango ice plays off the pickled fruit sauce Chamoy and Tajin chile seasoning. It's a power trio. (And even wilder when stuffed inside a whole pineapple in the piña loca.) The shop, owned by Guatemalan immigrants Cristobal and Marleny Espinoza, also serves Costa Rican copos with milk powder, and Guatemalan granizados. If you ask for one in the style of their hometown Malacatán, they'll serve you a syrup-less shaved ice with a squeeze of lime and dried pumpkin seed powder. It is not sweet, but refreshing and a little nutty.
More info: 631-381-0076
Mr. Frappe: Puerto Rican frappes and piraguas
112 Rockaway Ave., Valley Stream
When Juan Carlos walked into an American coffee shop and saw the baristas serving frappes, he was confused. The Puerto Rican native grew up eating frappes in his hometown of Aguadilla, but they were milk-based and more like a smoothie, blended with chocolate candies or fruits like coconut. (Not espresso.) So the owner of Mr. "B" Cuts barbershop in Valley stream opened a Puerto Rican smoothie shop next door, going back and forth between cutting hair and blending drinks. The passion fruit frappe had an exquisitely simple flavor that you could tell was just pure, fresh fruit. His mango paleta pop is also great, but as soon as he can get an ice machine he intends to roll out Puerto Rican snow cones. He says he'll make his piraguas the traditional way, by shaving a block of ice by hand before topping the pyramidal snow tower with Puerto Rican syrups like guava and creamy mantecado.
Blanca's Bakery: Salvadorean minutas
30 Church St., Freeport
When you see the little stand with the yellow parasol outside of Blanca's Bakery, you know it's minuta time. The women that operate this Salvadorean deli by the Freeport train station will always make you a snow cone, but the presence of the stand signals they have fresh fruit. During a recent visit, they chopped mangoes and honeydew melon, loading up a paper cup. The syrup options were numerous and fiercely colored — strawberry, raspberry, orange, pineapple — but mostly had a singular sweet flavor, letting the fruit take center stage. In El Salvador these treats often come from a cart and can be ordered with a thick jelly made from tropical tamarind fruit. But here you have the option of topping yours with coco, or coconut shreds, in a screaming pink sugar syrup.
More info: 516-632-9615
El Punto Rojo: Colombian cholado
Multiple locations including 85 S. Main St., suite 3841, Freeport
Is it a snow cone or a fruit cocktail? The Colombian cholado manages to be both: tangy, saucy, sweet and loaded with a ton of fresh fruit. You'll find an excellent one at the Colombian bakery chain El Punto Rojo, advertised on large colorful posters that show off its frostiness. The ice inside is grittier and more crushed than shaved, giving the cholado a liquidy texture with its tangy sweet passion fruit syrup. Inside you'll find chopped apples, pineapple, peaches, melon and more. But you'll have to spoon it rather than slurp it, because there's so much condensed milk in this thing it clogs up the straw. In Colombia these cholados get funky with tropical fruits like lulo (like an orange mixed with a tomato) or soursop (like a citrus banana). Heck, they even put shredded cheese on there sometimes. But this version was more than wonderful with not one but two maraschino cherries on top.
More info: 516-442-5266, puntorojorestaurant.com