Unless you grew up in Tucson, walking into a raspados shop can often feel like entering a labyrinth of confusing fruit pictures and Spanish fantasy words. We all remember that wretched time we went in for strawberry ice cream, and came out with something that tasted like a fruity shrimp cocktail.
Lucky for you, we've made it simple. Here are five terms you really need to know before you slurp:
*lechera / sweetened condensed milk
Raspados is everything — icy, sweet, fruity, funky — but the real connoisseurs know when to make it creamy. An optional topping at most shops, this thick sugary milk pairs best with the ripe fruit raspados like strawberry, mango and pineapple. The word lechera is actually a brand-name product by Nestle.
*nieve / ice cream
Now we're talkin'! The word nieve means a lot of things in different places — it literally translates into snow — but in this context we're talking a big fat scoop of vanilla ice cream. Most shops offer this for an additional fee, unless you're getting the ....
Not technically a raspado, because it doesn't have shaved ice. But this staggering treat has a little bit of everything: fresh peaches, mangos, strawberries, pineapples and coconut, pecans, lechera and of course, ice cream. I see this as a compromise between mommy and her ravenous sugar deranged 5-year-old. If you don't eat your fruit, you can't have any ice cream! (How can you have any ice cream if you don't eat your fruit?)
*Mangoyada / Mangonada
Buckle your seatbelts (and loosen your regular belts), we're now going into uncharted raspados territory. AKA: the land of sour raspados, drenched in that pungent pickled fruit sauce we call Chamoy. The mangoyada is a little different depending on where you go, but it's usually got a combo of mangos, spicy Mexican candies like the tamarind sticks and Serpentina (above), and sometimes even peanuts. Not for novices.
*El Niño / La Niña
Very similar in style to the mangoyada, but with a different fruit. At Rincon Tarasco a la Michoacana, the niño raspado has tamarind fruit, and the niña has fresh pineapple. Because we all know those boys love their obscure African seed pods! JK what is a tamarind anyway? Someone should Google this ...