Filipino Sorbetes



PAGASA recorded the hottest days of the year so far last February and the weather bureau said to expect hotter days ahead. One of the ways we can cool off these summer months is by eating the Filipino sorbetes.  


Just about anywhere in the archipelago, sorbeteros tinkle their brass hand-bells and peddle happy heat-relief in colorful wooden carts. Everyone can enjoy sorbetes or popularly known as “dirty ice cream” no matter how cash-strapped. Portions are affordable small, so one can simply order several servings set into crisps subtly sweet wafer cones, or sandwiched between bread buns.



Ice cream began as a flavored snow in ancient China and Greece. From its European past, Filipinos have created a kind of ice cream that is sherbet-like –meaning made with little if any milk, and therefore gently crystalline in texture. The absence of milkfat makes native sorbetes marvelously frigid against the lips.



Spaniards introduced ice cream to Filipinos as sorbetes, a high-priced rarity served at salones de refrescos. In fact, sucking is a key to drawing out flavor and cold which is how the designation came from Spanish verb “sorbeter”, (to suck).


By the time Filipinos declared themselves independent of Spain in 1898, and created Asia’s first constitutional democracy, glaces were served for dessert during the constitutional convention’s inaugural.  



In traditionally cow-less Philippines, evaporated milk was used extensively by backyard sorbetes factories and homemakers. 1899, the first American-owned ice cream parlor was set up in the Philippines. Named after its owner, Clarke’s advertised the best pink ice cream ever made from tinned milk. 



The United States emerged a leader in commercial ice cream production when it improved ice cream making machines, and pioneered in industrial refrigeration. American Nancy Johnson invented hand-cranked, portable freezer in 1846 to replace the old pot freezer called the garapiñera.


Information source: Felice Prudente-Santa Maria


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12 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I just want the stainless steel without wheel. where can i buy one like that?

  2. […] accessed 8/12/14. Hereafter Santiago. 7“Filipino Sorbetes” accessed […]

  3. I
    I need some information to start a business of dirty ice cream. How much the cart and where to buy the cart.

  4. hello do you have recipes for sorbetes?im planning to make one soon..hope you can give me

  5. Hi…Aloha from Maui, Hawaii.
    Our organization (Ilocosurian Association of Maui) “ISAM” Wanted to buy a New Kariton for sorbets. Pls. refer me to a factory who assemble this.
    Salamat po!!

  6. One of my “thrills” when I was a young kid – buying sorbetes from a sorbetero LOL.

    • likewise bertN. I love quezo and ube.

  7. dirty ice cream! makes me crave for one now. 🙂

    • It brings back childhoood memories Weekend Haven.

  8. Hi TOF, I’m always drawn to these pretty carts with all the lively decorations, but I sometimes hesitate to buy because of the idea that goes with the name “dirty ice cream”
    Do you think that they’re pretty safe for the most part? Also, how long can these vendors keep their sorbetes chilled as they travel their routes during the day?

    • I want to keep one cart queeniebee. its Filipino folkart.
      well, I think its safe to eat. Dirty ice cream got its publicity since its being sold in the streets.
      They store dry ice inside the cart to keep the sorbetes from melting. Its pretty amazing really.

      • Then I won’t hesitate to try next time I see one. Anyone who has collected small inexpensive souvenirs in the past, probably owns the little toy plastic “Sorbetes Pinoy” figurine, so I guess vendors such as these are dear in the hearts of many, young and old. True, a real cart would make a great folk art collectable if you had room to display it!

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