Art resonates in Japan even in the simplest dessert that you will find on the streets. In Nagasaki City, there is one dessert that has been sold along the streets for over fifty years and it is called chirin-chirin ice cream. This dessert not only promises to satisfy your taste buds but also your eyes because the ice cream is not just scooped out and thrown straight to the cone. However, each scoop is molded into the beautiful shape of a flower. Simply put, it is a work of art which oftentimes you find difficult to eat before you realize it has already melted.
Japan seems to have a fondness on naming their food with onomatopoeic words and chirin-chirin ice cream is no exemption. Chirin-chirin is the sound made by a brass bell which is also a counterpart of ring-a-ling in the English language. A brass bell for every child of Nagasaki has always been associated with the call of ice cream carts passing by and that is how the flower-shaped ice cream got its name.
But before this ice cream came about, the dessert was first sold as an ice cream that was scooped out and put on top of the cone. Upon realizing the disappointment in the eyes of the kids who can’t keep their ice cream in place, the vendors then decided to put the ice cream in a more stable form in the cone which incidentally turned into a rose shape.
Ice cream is one of the most popular desserts ever invented to beat the scorching heat of the sun during summer. However, chirin-chirin ice cream is sold all year round (even during winter) along the canals of Nagasaki City at a fairly reasonable price of 100 yen. In fact, you can always find carts around the Unomachi area with one cart near Megane Bridge.
Ironic as it seems, sales are usually higher on New Year’s Day compared to other days of the year because it is during this time that kids have plenty of loose change to spare after having received their Otoshidama (New Year gift money enclosed in a tiny envelope). This ice cream is similar to the so-called dirty ice cream in the Philippines which is a sorbet frozen ice cream sold in small carts along with cones and tools to scoop the ice cream. However, old ladies selling the dessert use a small flat scoop to serve the ice cream and mold it into a flower shape. Chirin-chirin also comes in various flavors, colors, and shapes. The most popular flavor is vanilla which is white while the most popular shape is the rose. However, ice cream vendors can also mold the dessert into tulips.
You can watch the video below to see how chirin-chirin ice cream is made!