Is the Pinoy “Dirty Ice Cream” Really Dirty?

A couple of weeks back, my distinctly Filipino-Australian cousin approached me with an interesting query. She recently visited the Philippines and was curious about the origin of the “Dirty Ice Cream”. I was speechless! I never questioned the actions of my parents. Simply, I accepted the fact that the street-peddled Sorbetes holds an unappealing name.


The wealth of knowledge found online can uncover the mystery behind the question that my cousin posed onto me. As history values the varied perspectives of people, here are the different reasons why it is called as such:


Store-Bought vs Traditional Ice Cream


store bought vs traditional


I can still recall my hilarious experience as we danced to the tune of the Tagalog song entitled “Mamang Sorbetero” by Celeste Legaspi. The song is about the tantalizing power of an ice cream. It alleviates the strong feelings caused by the heat and induces the children’s genuine happiness.


As a wooden pushcart passes buy and the sorbetero (male ice cream vendor) rings his bell, Filipinos will flock immediately. His product is called “dirty ice cream” (traditional) to differentiate from the store-bought ice cream. The name does not stop us from eating it without fear or hesitation.


Traditional ice cream is made from unique ingredients such as Carabao Milk, Nangka (Jackfruit), and Ube (Purple Yam). While, store-bought or commercial ice cream boasts the brand of Selecta, Magnolia, Arce Dairy, Magnum, and so on.


Beyond Japanese Occupation

Japanese Imperial Army soldiers buying and eating ice-cream from a vendor

Image Credit: TubagBohol


Many Filipinos believe that the Japanese occupation introduced the existence of frozen desserts. Kakigori, a Japanese shaved ice dessert, was believed to be the inspiration for the local ice cream. Our ancestors modified how the Japanese prepared their food.


Dirty ice cream emerged by puréeing ripe fruits with milk, sugar, and water. Then, they froze the mixture into small containers. Turning these ripe fruits into ice cream is a way to prevent wastage of the overwhelming supply during the harvest season.


Mothers’ Know Best

mothers know best

Image Credit: I Heart Manila


Our beloved parents play a part to the last intriguing reason as to why dirty ice cream is dubbed as such. Succeeding generations of parents have warned their children about the unsanitary ice cream sold from the vibrant rudimentary carts. The ice cream was deemed to be dirty as the vendors do not wear gloves and do not manufacture the product in modern factories. However, children continued to patronize it anyway.


Truth be told, this type of ice cream is not dirty! I pay huge respect to the vendors who walk around the city streets in order to deliver one of the most unique tasting ice creams in the world. In fact, huge companies have picked up the idea of upgrading the dirty ice cream. Decorated carts with installation walls are currently displayed in massive ballrooms inside renowned hotels.


Knowing about the history of dirty ice cream is fascinating as it shapes how Filipinos indulge their desserts.

Anna Agoncillo

Anna is a Registered Psychometrician and a graduate of Cardiff Metropolitan University, United Kingdom. Earning a bachelor's degree with honors in Psychological Studies, lead her to a career of writing and teaching. She is also the author of the new book entitled Psychology of Love, Money, & Life.


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