Raspados: Shaved Ice from Oasis Raspados

Tacos may very well be the perfect food, but let's face it, the standard Meximerican fare can get a bit stale after a while. Taco the Town is here to highlight some of the more unusual Mexican finds in the valley. 

This week: Raspados, or shaved ice, served up by Oasis Raspados.

¿Como se dice?: Raspados are the Mexican version of the rainbow sno cones that have become a little slice of Americana, available whenever the familiar jingle of an ice cream truck is heard. Except instead of being a bland, rock hard sugar-bomb that tortures your teeth with every bite, a raspado can vary from an almost savory mound of shaved ice to a chilly fruit salad substitute.

Here in the Valley we lack the raspado mobiles that pepper much of Mexico, even in light of the nuevo food truck trend popping up across the valley. Instead, free-standing and strip mall joints like Oasis Raspados and others churn out these rutti 'tutti super fruity concoctions in just about any combination you can dream up.

(sink your teeth into all the spicy details after the jump)

La Comida: At any raspadería (yeah, we just coined it) one thing you'll notice is that their marketing ploy is super specialized (shaved ice is the game) but pretty varied, since they'll create any flavor combo you can dream up. Options on the menu include a scoop of ice cream (called helado o nieve), a drizzle of sweetened condensed milk (lechera), pickled chile fruit sauce (chamoy), or straight up super fruit salad sans shaved ice (sometimes called a Macedonia--not sure why). Also, if you happen to see something called pico on the menu, immediately divert your brain from the red, white and green salsa bandera territory. It's actually the diced fruit topping your shaved ice bonanza.

El Sabor: Now that you've seen how varied a simple raspado can be, it's hard to identify any one quintessential raspado flavor. If you're new to the raspado game, we would recommend trying a fruit that you already know and love, like strawberries (fresas), bananas (plátanos), or watermelon (sandía). After you've mastered the basic frutas, expand out to the second tier but still familiar offerings, like ripe mangos, starchy sweet tamarind, and plums (saladitos--Be forewarned that these plums are nothing like the tasty stone fruit you're familiar with. They're salted, shriveled pruned with a very, how do you say, interesting flavor). And if fruit doesn't sound all that refreshing, Oasis Rapados also offers other various flavors like vanilla, horchata, coconut, and a lightly sweetened walnut.

If you've got the cajones, and are looking for something to shock your Wonder Bread palate, try a chamoyada instead. You'll be treated to a pile of shaved ice topped with fruit and drenched in that pickled chile fruit sauce we mentioned earlier. It puts a spicy, tangy twist on an otherwise sweet treat.

Don't forget that you can always mix and match flavors, and if the man asks, "Do you want the sweet milk (lechera)?" Your default answer should be: "Yes, I want the sweet milk." It's a thick and creamy topping that adds an extra dimension to the solo shaved ice. Just make sure to stir it in well because that sweetened condensed milk is potent. A scoop of ice cream can also transform your raspado from something that may have been close to a health food (hey, it's got fruit in it!) into a decadent dessert.

Bring a bit of México to your kitchen: Unless you happen to have a machine that shaves ice real nice (gone are the days of our Snoopy sno cone maker) it's easier to leave the raspados to the pros. Oasis Raspados has several locations around the valley, including one that just changed over to their capable hands at the corner of 19th Avenue and Osborn. Raspados are named for the verb raspar, and if you're feeling ambitious, grind up some ice in your blender and try out a strawberry horchata raspado or an apricot raspado.

Know of any Mexican gems in the Valley? Reveal your family secrets in the comment section.