Asia’s Sweet Success: The History of Ice Cream in Asia

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by Selina Tan

The concept of a frozen dessert is one that goes back thousands of years. By pouring a mixture of salt and ice over containers of liquid syrup, the Chinese were creating a rudimentary form of ice cream as long ago as 2000 BC. The resulting frozen product was served as a dessert to China’s elite.

Ice Cream in Asia: How It All Began

2000 BC

Frozen syrup is
created in China
using snow and
salt as freezing
agents.

500 BC

The Persian Empire
is introduced to
frozen desserts via
trade with China.
The word “sorbet”
comes from the
Arabic šariba, which
means, “to drink”.

400 BC

The Arabs begin
using milk and
sugar as major
ingredients in ice
cream. They also
invent a dessert
made with rose
water and vermicelli
called faludeh.

200 BC

The Chinese create
another variation
of ice cream, with
milk, overcooked
rice and spices,
packed in snow
to freeze.

8TH CENTURY

Sorbet is
introduced to Italy
when the Arabs
conquer the island
of Sicily, giving
rise to the famous,
semi-frozen Italian
dessert granita.

10TH CENTURY

From being a luxury
food for the elite,
ice cream becomes
widespread among
many major Arab
cities, including
Baghdad, Damascus
and Cairo.

16TH CENTURY

In Italy, sorbet is
enriched with cream
and eggs to create
gelato.

20TH CENTURY

Ernest A. Hamwi, a
Syrian immigrant,
is credited with
the invention of
the ice-cream cone
– rolled from one
of his waffles.

1981

An early form
of the Japanese
mochi ice cream is
produced by the
Lotte company;
it’s made using
rice starch and
rice milk.

1993

Frances Hashimoto,
former president of
Mikawaya, creates
mochi ice cream by
taking small orbs
of ice cream and
wrapping them in
mochi rice cake.

21ST CENTURY

Asian soft-serve
ice cream (known
as “soft cream” in
Japan) is booming
in popularity, with
Korean brands such
as Honey Crème
expanding across
the region.

Check out the rest of this article in Asian Geographic No.109 Issue 1/2015 here or download a digital copy here

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