The Ice Cream Challenge: Top 5 (2012).

Haters will say it's bland and boring. Just so vanilla…. But add a little chocolate sauce, smash in some mango, a strawberry or two or drizzle over the classic Kithul Pani and good old Vanilla Ice becomes a hard to beat treat. You also can't really conceive of milkshakes without it.

One of the many little things that makes our Lankan land great is the availability of many, inexpensive yet highly satisfactory brands of vanilla ice cream. Still not all Vanillas are equal. While Elephant House has long been the dominant force in local ice cream Cargills seems pretty keen to take a hunk of that profitable pie. Various underdog competitors also exist and the partisans of Highland and Kotmale can be quite fanatical.

To cut through this sundae of icy options YAMU thought it would weigh in with an ice-cream challenge.

The challenge was for local supermarket/ inexpensive brands so Il Gelato's, Carinos and Hagen Dasz tubs were taken out of the mix.

Which is the tastiest of them all?

We neglected to photo Carnival ice cream. It's white and looks like ice cream.

5. Carnival Rs 270, 1 litre

Finished at the bottom of our frozen pyramid.  The classic ice cream parlors 1 litre vanilla ice was synthetic and thin.  It really didn't taste like there was much milk in it and we got the sense that nothing but preservatives and E-numbers kept it in vaguely solid form. The best way to describe this is something like the bargain bin, cheapest sort of ice cream you find in British supermarkets – not a good thing. Somehow in their Galle Road ice cream parlor the stuff tastes fine even rather good but take the litre box home and it's a different story.

Given the island's high ice cream standards though it wasn't objectively bad but lost out relative to it's competitors on creaminess and price – Rs 270, the priciest of our selection.

4. Highland Rs 230, 1 litre

This was a bit of a shock. People speak highly of Highland with many saying it's straight up vanilla flavor is the best around.  They are major milk producers so it would make sense that their ice cream is good and creamy but our sample tasted distinctly off. Creamy for sure, there's a lot of real milk in this but it tasted like the milk had gone off.  Off milk isn't the taste you want in your ice cream.

Perhaps they just haven't mastered pasteurization, as we had a similar problem with their packet chocolate milk.  This was a fresh box from Keells though so maybe you need to stand outside the factory to get the good stuff? A shame cos the creaminess had potential but on the day it didn't match up to the heavy-weights.

3. Kotmale Rs. 230, 1 litre

This is another underground favorite. Kotmale with their hill country farm full of fat, healthy looking cows was the go to for superior local ice cream.  Their gourmet range (pecan, berries etc) is expensive but very popular. However the company was recently taken over by supermarket behemoth Cargills and there are mutterings that standards have slipped. We thought the ice cream was fine, creamy and thick but lacking a little in terms of vanilla flavour.  Also once it melted a little it had a distinctly pasty taste/texture which wasn't welcome, so this goes in at the middle of the table. Not bad but not great.

2. Elephant House Rs. 220, 1 litre For so many Colombars the default ice cream – Elephant House, finished second. This is a classic for a reason they're big on the vanilla, and its nice and smooth.  Maybe because of the relatively strong vanilla flavor it tastes a bit like cake batter- in a good way.  The ivory colouring is also a nice touch, the other brands' bone-whiteness isn't quite as appetizing. What kept this from the top of the table was the lack of creaminess. While some people might appreciate the lightness it felt to use like they were stingier with the milk and cream than our top ranked competitor.

1. Cargills Magic Rs. 220, 1 litre It's the best. A fraction ahead of Keells – it was the best balanced of our bunch. Creamy but not pasty, enough vanilla but not too much. Smooth and really a perfect base for other toppings.  Again it’s supermarket vanilla ice cream so it's not going to make you go wow but for subtle tastiness this one won us over.  We've been a bit critical of Cargills products in the past  but with vanilla ice cream at least they are onto a winner.

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