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TBI Food Secrets: The Long & Fascinating History Behind Ice Gola, India’s Go-To Summer Treat

Barf ka gola, chuski or gola ganda, call it what you may, this summer delicacy brings out the child in everyone.

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Summer is here and it’s leaving no stone unturned in making its presence felt. Amidst the scorching heat, what better way to get some respite than gorging on a dollop of the seasonal favourite—ice gola.

Barf ka gola, chuski or gola ganda, call it what you may, this summer delicacy brings out the child in everyone.

A colourful ice gola. Source: Anish1321 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0] via Wikimedia Commons
This iconic summer delicacy that we believe to be total desi, however boasts a history that encompasses many cultures and legends. The snow ball, a North American favourite, is made of shaved ice (similar to our homeboy) while another version, the snow cone contains coarse and crunchy ground ice.

The popular Hawaiian shave ice comes with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream at the bottom of the cone. In Texas and northern Mexico, vendors have a different name for it—raspa—which comes in many flavours, including lemon and chilli powder.

Ais kacang is a popular form of shaved ice sold in Malaysia and Singapore. It was earlier served with red beans but now includes fruit toppings. In Japan, where the delicacy was popular even in the late 19th century, it is known as kakigori.

The story of how these shave ice were invented is as vibrant and multi-coloured as the look of these icy treats.

A snow cone. Source: Pixabay

There’s a Japanese flavour to this origin story. Some believe it was invented by the Japanese during the Heian period (794 to 1185 AD) when ice would be brought down from mountains and stored in a cave called himuro which translates to ‘ice-room’. Ice was considered a rarity back then and shaved ice was only served to royalty. When the Japanese migrated to Hawaiian Islands, they brought with them what is now the Hawaiian shave ice.


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Snow cones made their debut in 1919, when East Dallas resident Samuel Bert began selling them at the State Fair of Texas. He patented his ice crushing machine the following year; by the 1950s, almost one million snow cones were being sold every year.

Shave ice, which has more syrup than traditional snow cones, came during the Industrial Revolution, when wagons carrying ice blocks from New York to southern United States would pass through Baltimore and distribute ice shavings to kids.

As shave ice in its myriad forms rose in popularity, they began to appear in street shops around the world including India.

Whoever came up with the ice gola, we have a lot to thank them for. Combine tangy flavours with icy syrups, and you have an irresistible dessert to slurp on.

A ice-gola stall in Mumbai. Source: Maria Krüger (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5] via Wikimedia Commons
As kids, we remember running out to the streets to spot the golawala, completely oblivious of any concerns for hygiene or hygiene. Many makeshift ice gola stall owners may not have a license, and sanitation checks often reveal the hazardous chemicals and likelihood of diseases transmitted by these edibles.

To ensure chuski lovers devour the dessert without having to fret about hygiene, a number of bigger ventures have emerged in recent years.


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Started in 2008, Gogola in Mumbai offers an eclectic range of golas ranging from Blue Lagoon Gola to the Kool Kokum Gola and the Krazy Kairi Re Gola; all made using mineral water.

Snow Gola, which started from Bengaluru, has 20 outlets across the country offering hygienic and delicious ice golas. They also have a mobile outlet, and have supplied to events, such as Aero India 2013, IPL etc. Ice golas are also available in alcoholic versions across the country.

Whether we want to beat the heat or relive that happy childhood again, ice gola is out go-to dessert. And when in doubt, ask for kaala-khatta!

(Written by Sonali Verma)

Featured image: By Bhargavpatel009 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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