Food of the Day: Tamarind Piragua in Old San Juan


This Puerto Rican shaved ice is refreshing and perfectly sweet, The Daily Meal reports.

Maybe it is the longing for summer that made me crave a cold cup of shaved ice in the middle of December. Whatever the reason was, I found myself day-dreaming of the sweet and tangy tamarind-flavoured piragua I had (more than once) when visiting Old San Juan in Puerto Rico.

Piragua, Puerto Rico’s version of shaved ice, is a delicious way to cool down on a hot and sunny day. Sold from small push-carts on street corners and even the beach, piragua can be had in a range of flavors — most of the piragua carts I encountered offered assortment of more than 15 different flavoured syrups, from more common ones like strawberry and lemon, to the more unusual flavours like tamarind and even chile.

To make a piragua, the shaved ice is dumped into a little cup, and the syrup of choice is poured on to give it flavor. Though I first was slightly hesitant to trust the quality of the ice (getting sick on the first day of my trip was not exactly what I was hoping for), I could not resist the idea of a cool, refreshing, and sweet ice cone. When it came to the choice of syrup — which was anything but easy — I decided to go with something I couldn’t get in my bodega ice-cream isle back in New York. As I also had tasted tamarind in the form of a sweet soda before, I thought that would make for a good piragua. Final verdict: It was delicious. And no, I did not get sick, even after five piraguas I squeezed in to my three-day trip to Puerto Rico. Next time I visit, I will definitely have one again.

For the original report go to

2 thoughts on “Food of the Day: Tamarind Piragua in Old San Juan

  1. Reblogged this on The Critical Historian and commented:
    For many of us in the Diaspora, this is more than a treat. It is like going back in history to the time we experienced the island as just one more islander (or as our parents did, for those in the second generation). It is also a reminder of the little things that matter in understanding life in the Caribbean. La piragua o el frio-frio is not simply a syrup in ice, as people around the world may see it. It is the product of the artist-worker on the street who makes his living by saving other people from the excesses of the Caribbean sun. And if the piragua (or frio-frio for Dominicans) is of tamarindo, then we are transported back to the country side, to where the romantic diasporan believes the island (DR or PR) is still pure and uncorrupted by modernity.

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