Helado de Paila -- Ibarra is famous across Ecuador for its helado de paila, a handmade sherbet. Although helado translates as "ice cream," Ibarra's helado de paila is made simply from fruit juice, fruit pieces, ice, and sugar churned by hand, with a wooden paddle, in a large copper bowl, or paila, over ice and salt.

My favorite flavors are maracuyá (passion fruit) and tomate de árbol or tamarillo (tree tomato). Other popular flavors include mora (blackberry), and guanábana (soursop).

The tradition was apparently begun in Ibarra in 1897, by Rosalía Suárez, who originally used ice gathered from the (now extinct) glacier atop Volcán Imbabura. Her descendants still run the original Heladería Rosalía Suárez (tel. 06/2950-107), on Calle Oviedo 7-79 and Olmedo. Today there are shops and stands selling helado de paila throughout the country. But if you're in Ibarra, be sure to stop here, where they've been dishing up this treat for more than a century.

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