Folks! The sweltering heat in Dubai has pushed me to try out some refreshing beverages and icy coolants like the kulfi I posted last week. A couple of months ago when I was drawing up a list of goodies to try this summer, my thoughts drifted to the Mangalorean 'ice candies' that I have grown up eating and those that are so much a part of everyone's childhood. Ever since I made the Ellu-Bella (sesame seed juice) a couple of years ago I have been toying with the idea of recreating the taste of my childhood. There are so many wonderful memories associated with this humble, extremely delicious popsicle that making it was a must!
If you have grown up in Mangalore before the '90s then there is no way you could have missed the 'ice candies' that were sold outside schools. Since there used to be 3 schools in the same area as the school I went to, there used to be a ton of ice candy sellers selling their ware in insulated, aluminium and wood encased boxes firmly tied behind the seat. As soon as the final bell rang, we would rush out of the gate towards these ice candy sellers from whom we purchased (for a pittance actually) frozen delights in the form of popsicles on a stick (ice candies/ice lollies) or in thin, long plastic pouches famously known as 'pepsi'. The ice candies came in several flavours - the cheaper ones were simply coloured water in various flavours such as orange, lime, pineapple, mango, raspberry or cola and the slightly expensive ones were the doodh (milk) candy and the bella (jaggery) candy. I don't remember buying a lot of the doodh candy as it used to be expensive (perhaps double the price of the regular ice candies). The bella candy was by far everyone's favourite! There was something just so delicious and satisfying about the flavours - sweetness from the jaggery paired with an element of spice from crushed peppercorns and subtly flavoured with some cardamom. Most bella candies that I ate also had bits of grated coconut in it - isn't it such a lovely package? !
In my opinion the bella and doodh candies were the healthiest of the lot as they were made with healthy ingredients instead of just sugary coloured water. I doubt if the different coloured candies we got were made with fruit juices, but I am sure that if you want to recreate them at home you can go ahead and make them with the fruit juice of your choice or make things really easy by using Tang powder or Rasna (not sure if you still get it). For the longest time, my mum in law has made 'pepsi' at home and sold them in the family owned stationary shop in Mangalore. Since this shop overlooks the school, her stock of pepsi used to get sold out within minutes after school closed for the day. A few years ago she showed me the machine that was used to seal the plastic pouches. The machine that has seen golden days lies untouched today as she no longer makes pepsi at home.
While the ice candy-wallas catered to people who couldn't afford big money (especially school children) they did introduce the 'choco-bar' over the years. Unlike the doodh candy which was more like a frozen milk candy, the choco-bar was a creamy vanilla ice cream popsicle covered in chocolate. It was divine but not something that most of us could afford (if the ice candy cost us between 10 or 25 paise then the choco bar perhaps cost around between Rs. 2 -5 - not really sure, but it was pretty expensive). It was more of a treat that we got when we visited the Kadri park or the annual church festival/fair with our family.
Over a period of a few weeks I have managed to recreate the taste of the bella candy as I remember it. I must have last eaten it when I was in high school - a good 25 odd years ago. The first attempt was delicious but lacked a lot of flavour so the husband suggested I add some milk. The second attempt was with the milk - the taste was great but I felt it still needed some more jaggery. The final attempt resulted in perfect bella candies, just the way I remembered eating them.
I am not sure if today's generation has had the privilege and joy of tasting the bella candy. The pepsi, considered to be more hygienic than the ice candy is still around I believe but the bella candy is perhaps a thing of the past. I highly doubt if the candy seller is around either, selling his ware in wooden, insulated boxes and wandering from one school to the other riding his bicycle.
If you are a '70s or an '80s child, I urge you to make this simple and deliciously beautiful bella candy today and enjoy reminiscing your childhood memories revolving around it. If you enjoyed it, don't forget to tell me about it! Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
It is the taste of Mangalore on a stick, a piece of your childhood.
Prep time: 10 mins | Freezing time: 6 hours or overnight | Yield: 6 standard sized popsicles
Recipe: My own
- 1 cup (240ml) water
- 3/4th cup (loosely packed) (150 grams) powdered cane jaggery * see notes
- 8-9 peppercorns, coarsely crushed
- 1 cardamom pod, husked and powdered
- 2 teaspoons freshly grated coconut
- 1/2 cup milk
1. Place the water in a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Add the powdered jaggery and stir until mixed and all the lumps have been dissolved.
2. Add the peppercorns and grated coconut and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool down to room temperature.
3. Add the milk and cardamom powder, mix and pour into popsicle moulds. If the moulds have the sticks attached to the lids then place them right away and freeze. If not, cover the moulds with aluminium foil and freeze for about 30-45 mins until the mixture is semi frozen (you can see icicles forming around the sides), then place the sticks in the center and place the moulds back into the freezer.
4. To un-mould, invert the mould under a running tap and gently tug at the stick until the popsicle releases itself from mould. Enjoy!
1. I made this with regular jaggery which is also called as cane jaggery as it is sourced from the sugar cane. Use the deepest coloured jaggery you can find in the cane sugar category (don't use palm jaggery that is available in flat round discs). You can try using cane sugar/unrefined sugar but I am not sure of the proportions and how it will taste.
2. You can play around with the quantities of jaggery and milk to achieve the desired level of sweetness.
3. Do not add the milk when the mixture is simmering - I did this during my second attempt and the mixture immediately curdled. Jaggery flavoured paneer anyone?