Mantecado Taste Test: Arce Dairy and FIC Frozen CustardMay 14, 2018
Just as New Zealand has its Hokey Pokey and Italy has its Stracciatella, the Philippines has its share of (seemingly) exclusive ice cream flavors—among which is mantecado. Dubbed “Manila vanilla”, mantecado is classified as being among the classic ice cream flavors popular in the good ol’ days. And though Cuba is also home to a related, but distinct ice cream variant of the same name (also described to be a local adaptation of vanilla ice cream, albeit with cinnamon and nutmeg), the Filipino version is described to have a predominantly buttery (or butterscotch-esque) profile that many locals wax poetic on.
But for all of mantecado’s supposed significance in the past, only a handful of local brands can be found churning their own versions—and of the few supposedly–existing ones we’d seen photos of online, only one brand can even still be spotted in the market: Arce Dairy. That is, until around this time last year, when local brand Fruits in Ice Cream (FIC), introduced a mantecado variant as part of their then-new Frozen Custard line. It’s much more expensive than Arce Dairy’s and is of a frozen custard backbone, so how do the two compare?
Arce Dairy Mantecado Ice Cream
Arce Dairy is known for their carabao milk-based ice cream, and it really stands out on their more yellowish scoop of mantecado. Just on the right side of sweet, you get a strong dose of milkiness that registers on the tongue and a rich but clean finish. The consistency can be icy, but it’s denser relative to others supermarket brands and creamy in a way that suggests the use of real dairy. Each scoop is just rich enough to satisfy the sweet tooth without you feeling like you have to unzip your pants from fullness. Though we can’t say it tastes specifically buttery (though its milkiness approximates it), it has a mellow but comforting flavor that lets it stand both on its own or as an accompaniment to desserts.
FIC Frozen Custard – Mantecado Real
Frozen custard differs from ice cream in that it has egg yolks in the mix (note that ice cream may also contain egg yolks), and that it’s churned with less air, resulting in a more compact scoop. Taking that into account, FIC’s paler-looking scoop is decidedly richer and more treat yo’ self-worthy. Being frozen custard, it puts the eggy flavor front and center before wrapping up with a buttery overtone. (We can’t tell if the said overtone is of real butter as there is a peculiar finish that brings to mind artificial butterscotch flavoring, but it melds well with the egginess and tastes great either way.) Texture is where this scoop stands out the most: though not the thickest frozen custard we’ve had, it’s dense as is proper. And with barely any ice crystals to get in the way, you get a smooth and voluptuous mouthfeel that melts like velvet on the tongue, and which allows you to savor the flavor wave as it unpacks slowly. It’s decadent for sure, but a little goes a long way.
With its superb texture and flavor, FIC makes a great frozen custard whose quality matches what you’d expect from the price. And with its richness, even a small scoop (or spoonful) goes a long way; and with its yolky, buttery taste (thanks, perhaps, to how the frozen custard formula makes for a better carrier of butter flavor)—it well evokes the old-fashioned mantecado as has been described from the beginning (and whose appeal, we concede, is timeless). Arce Dairy’s is a different beast with a cleaner, lighter profile, but it shines in its own respect—and not just because it’s cheaper. More milky than buttery or eggy, it’s a scoop that stands as a great basic, versatile ice cream you can rely on anytime.