Popsicles with a Mexican twist
August 15, 2007 (WLS) -- In hot weather, some people think popsicles. Our Hungry Hound thinks paletas. He's found a terrific family-run paleteria in Little Village where they are plenty of cool treats. But more than anything, he says, they are known for their 32 flavors of water and milk-based paletas.
Simply put, they are to Mexico, what popsicles are to America. Paletas are big business at Paleteria Poncho, a Little Village ice cream shop that's been cooling people off for 40 years.
"It's basically a Mexican fruit bar. Around the area, there's the pushcarts but we work with the supermarkets as well. We have all the areas around Chicago," says Gustavo Gutierrez of Paleteria Poncho.
The front store may look small, but in the back, they're making paletas all day long. They begin with the base - either fruit with water or possibly a milk-based paleta such as arroz con leche or rice milk. The mixture is poured into stainless steel molds, then immediately into a bath of super-cooled liquid, which freezes them solid in about 15 minutes. The sticks have to be either placed in by hand or with the aid of a cool device that makes the job a lot easier.
Once frozen, they are briefly set in hot water to loosen them, then popped out of the molds, sticks intact. Workers move quickly to get them onto a conveyor belt, which wraps them up and then into milk crates where they will wait in a giant freezer until they're shipped out. There are a rainbow of flavors: strawberry, pineapple and even some of the more Latin favorites such as mamey and tamarind. "A lot of Hispanics really enjoy that flavor during the summertime because it works really good with the heat," Gutierrez says.
Now Paleteria Poncho has 32 flavors to choose from - 16 milk, 16 water - most people have a tough time choosing between things like strawberry and pineapple. The Hound says he, personally, had a hard time choosing between mamey and tamarind.
The Paleteria also has terrific ice cream and aguas frescas.
If you can't make it to the store, their paletas are also carried in several Hispanic grocery stores as well as portable pushcarts throughout the city.
2513 S. Pulaski
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