Most people who hear the term “ice cream sandwich” automatically tend to think about softened chocolate wafers -- dotted with holes -- surrounding a rectangle of vanilla or tri-colored Neapolitan ice cream. It's an ice cream truck classic, though chocolate chip cookies are also a popular ice cream sandwich base these days.
But given the American penchant for sandwiches and ice cream treats, it surprising that actual ice cream sandwiches -- you know, the kind made with real bread -- aren't more common stateside. The carb-and-cream dessert is available around the world in different iterations that reflect the cultures they’re serving and are as delicious as they are portable.
In Southern Italy and Sicily, scoops of gelato are stuffed into buttery rolls of brioche -- a culinary celebration of Italy’s favorite frozen treat and fluffy Sicilian loaves. The result is a handheld dessert that combines the cold velvet of gelato with warm, fresh baked bread. The ensuing experience vaguely reminds me of tuna melts: the toasted, buttery bread; the melty cheese; and the cool, creamy, mayo-filled tuna salad. Cold and hot is an experience to delight in -- just ask the brownie sundae.
In Singapore, slices of rainbow-colored toast are folded around bricks of ice cream. While the ice cream can be any flavor, the bread is often lightly flavored with pandan -- a Southeast Asian plant that’s infused in ice cream, custards, and pastries -- that also gives the slices of bread their pale green hue.
The Philippines have a similar creation, but instead of using sliced bread, rounds of ice cream are gently placed in pandesal, a bread roll that can be eaten for breakfast, as a snack, alongside dinner, and of course, for dessert.
Thailand and Vietnam also have bread ice cream sandwiches, usually composed of longer rolls similar to hot dog buns. Instead of dairy-based ice creams, the traditional recipe typically calls for coconut milk-based scoops. Like an actual sandwich, Thailand’s version often has a selection of toppings to pick from: slivers of syrup-soaked jackfruit, sweet sticky rice, salty crushed peanuts, and chewy palm seeds. For extra decadence, evaporated milk or condensed milk is drizzled on top. In fact, Thais enjoy bread with their ice cream so much that even if bread isn’t the vessel carrying the sandwich, cubed up pieces are often included in sundae bowls.