Shave ice around the world

Shave ice around the world

Shave ice around the world 

JAPAN: Kakigori

A traditional summer treat found all over Japan, kakigori dates back to the 10th or 11th century.  At first, it was reserved for the nobility only, because ice was hard to transport.  It wasn't until the in the 1800's, the commoners also began to enjoy kakigroi.  A shave ice machine is equipped with a sharp blade that shaves fine snow-like ice off of a block ice; like Hawaiian shave ice or snow cones, it is typically made with plain, unflavored ice, piled into a towering mound in a squat cup or bowl, and then topped with flavored syrups. Commonly seen syrup flavors in Japan include fresh fruits like melon or strawberry; matcha (often paired with a drizzle of condensed milk); and mizore, which is a mild but popular white sugar syrup.

HAWAII: Shave ice

Hawaiian shave ice is one of the best-known forms of shaved ice desserts. Descended from Japanese kakigori, it was brought to the island by Japanese plantation laborers. The first stands opened in the early 1900s to serve plantation workers a cooling treat during the hottest summer months. Like kakigori, it resembles fine fluffy snow and is topped with flavored syrups, which are quickly absorbed into the dessert thanks to the ice’s powdery texture. While most stands tend to rely on artificially flavored, brightly colored syrups that run the flavor gamut from blue raspberry to bubblegum, newer artisan-style stands make use of locally grown ingredients, with flavors like lilikoi (passionfruit), soursop, and papaya. Hawaiian shave ice is frequently served with a scoop of ice cream at its core, and/or topped with sweet red azuki beans.

SOUTH KOREA: Patbingsu/bingsu or bingsoo

In Korea, the shave-ice dessert known as patbingsu is so ubiquitous that it’s even available at KFC. Similar to bao bing, patbingsu relies heavily on toppings (though the snowy texture is more like kakigori): A mound of shave ice resembling a snowball is heaped into a bowl and adorned with ingredients like sweet red beans (the most essential patbingsu topping), condensed milk, tteok (rice cakes), fruit, toasted soybean powder, and sometimes even scoops of ice cream. The concoction is typically mixed up with a spoon before consuming.


Thought to have been served in China as early as the seventh century, bao bing is one of the oldest forms of shave ice, and is also found in Taiwan and Malaysia. It’s been popular in the U.S. for decades (as evidenced by a 1989 New York Times story discussing the “Americanization” of the dish). It is typically served piled high in a bowl, in a generous portion meant for sharing; fruit is almost always involved, such as mango, lychee, or rambutan. Red beans are also popular; other possible garnishes include taro, peanuts, mochi, grass jelly, fruit syrups, or condensed milk. Compared to Hawaiian shave ice, the texture of bao bing is less powdery or snow-like and more like thinly shaved sheets or flakes of ice: Sometimes, it’s shaved from already flavored blocks of ice. Most Taiwanese-style shops buy pre-made, flavored blocks, though some make their own. Much like its creamier counterpart fro-yo, bao bing shops in the U.S. offer a massive array of toppings, from fruit and beans to Oreos and gummi bears.

There are many more different varieties of shave ice around the world. I'm getting extremely tempted to go out and grab one now. Are your taste buds screaming yet? Thank you so much for reading!


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