Food of the Day: Tamarind Piragua in Old San Juan
This Puerto Rican shaved ice is refreshing and perfectly sweet
Maybe it is the longing for summer that made me crave a cold cup of shaved ice in the middle of December. Whatever the reason was, I found myself day-dreaming of the sweet and tangy tamarind-flavoured piragua I had (more than once) when visiting Old San Juan in Puerto Rico.
Piragua, Puerto Rico’s version of shaved ice, is a delicious way to cool down on a hot and sunny day. Sold from small push-carts on street corners and even the beach, piragua can be had in a range of flavors — most of the piragua carts I encountered offered assortment of more than 15 different flavoured syrups, from more common ones like strawberry and lemon, to the more unusual flavours like tamarind and even chile.
To make a piragua, the shaved ice is dumped into a little cup, and the syrup of choice is poured on to give it flavor. Though I first was slightly hesitant to trust the quality of the ice (getting sick on the first day of my trip was not exactly what I was hoping for), I could not resist the idea of a cool, refreshing, and sweet ice cone. When it came to the choice of syrup — which was anything but easy — I decided to go with something I couldn’t get in my bodega ice-cream isle back in New York. As I also had tasted tamarind in the form of a sweet soda before, I thought that would make for a good piragua. Final verdict: It was delicious. And no, I did not get sick, even after five piraguas I squeezed in to my three-day trip to Puerto Rico. Next time I visit, I will definitely have one again.
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