9 Kinds Of Shave Ice From Around The World — And Where To Find Them In LA
No matter where in the world you live, hot summer days call for a cold, icy dessert. In the middle ages, people in what is now the Middle East collected ice from the top of mountains and stored it in caves for use in icy drinks during the summer. Sherbeth, an Arabic word, morphed into Italian sorbet and Sicilian granita. Similarly, in Japan, a dessert known as kakigori has been made for centuries by storing ice formed in the winter.
As these crushed or shaved ice (known as "shave ice") desserts have travelled around the world, they've incorporated new flavors and expanded on local techniques to create new iterations of the concept. From a minimalist Japanese kakigori to an overtuffed Filipino halo halo, here's where to find these polycultural creations in Los Angeles.
Kakigori traces its roots to the 11th century when ice formed during the winter was stored in icehouses and shaved during the summer into luxurious concoctions for aristocrats. Kakigori is made with pure ice, not flavored ice or juices, then drizzled with syrup. Traditional kakigori is topped with amazura-sen, a syrup made with ivy sap, but fruit-based syrups are much more common these days. While all kinds of kakigori are available now, the classic Japanese version focuses on perfecting its few ingredients. High-end purveyors refine their water or boast about the mineral water they use. (Nobu and Matsuhisa in Beverly Hills use Fiji Water.) You'll also find the dessert at Chinchinkurin and at Majordomo, which offers one seasonal flavor of kakigori on their dessert menu.
- Chinchinkurin: 350 E. 1st St., downtown L.A.
- Majordomo: 1725 Naud St., downtown L.A.
- Nobu Los Angeles: 903 La Cienega Blvd., West Hollywood.
Korean pat bing soo
Koreans have enjoyed crushed or shaved ice since the Joseon dynasty but pat bing soo supposedly originated in the early 1900s, during the period of Japanese rule, and consisted of kakigori with red bean paste. "Bing soo" means shave ice while "pat" refers to red bean in Korean. Modern variations can be flavored with fruit or matcha but traditional versions are typically topped with red bean paste, tteok (rice cake) and misugaru (multi-grain) powder. Koreatown has many spots to find the stuff — old school tea houses like Hwa Sun Ji, popular bingsoo cafe chain Mealtop and Oakobing, a dessert shop that serves the more modern and minimalist version of the dish.
- Hwa Sun Ji Tea & Coffee: 3960 Wilshire Blvd., Ste 100, Koreatown.
- Mealtop: 450 S. Western Ave., #308, Koreatown.
- Oakobing: 3300 W. 6th St., Unit 2, Koreatown.
Filipino halo halo
Halo halo, which means "mix mix" in Tagalog, is the national dessert of the Philippines. Believed to have originated from kakigori by way of Japanese migrants to Manila in the 1920s, halo halo incorporates local Filipino ingredients such as ube, coconut, beans, jackfruit and other fruit, which are then topped with evaporated milk. For an old school version, head to Neri's or LA Rose Café. B Sweet offers a modern variation with 13 ingredients including fruits, jellies and leche flan. Sari Sari Store in the Grand Central Market makes a fantastic version with fresh, seasonal fruit.
- Neri's: 3377 Wilshire Blvd., Ste 100, Koreatown.
- LA Rose Café: 4749 Fountain Ave., East Hollywood.
- B Sweet Dessert Bar: 2005 Sawtelle Blvd., West L.A.
- Sari Sari Store: 317 S. Broadway, downtown L.A.
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Hawaiian shave ice
Hawaiian shave ice also has its roots in kakigori. The treat found its way to Hawaii via Japanese migrants who came to work on the sugar plantations. It became popular in the 1940s thanks to Japanese-owned grocery stores. Eventually, the dessert adopted tropical flavors like pineapple and guava. In its simplest form, Hawaiian shave ice is a cone of fluffy, finely shaved ice topped with tropical fruit syrups. You can include a scoop of vanilla ice cream at the bottom or top it with a "snow cap," a drizzle of condensed milk. Get some at Coolest Boba and Shave Ice or Brian's Shave Ice, which now has multiple locations across town.
- Brian's Shave Ice: 14425 1/2 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks.
- Brian's Shave Ice: 11301 W. Olympic Blvd., West L.A.
- Brian's Shave Ice: 19572 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana.
- Coolest Boba & Shave Ice: 1012 N. Vermont Ave., East Hollywood.
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Taiwanese shaved snow
Taiwan levelled up the shaved ice game by inventing shaved snow. It's made by freezing lowfat milk infused with flavors such as green tea or mango, then shaving it into thin, fluffy ribbons. It's can be topped with fresh fruit, condensed milk, mochi, cookies and candy. Class 302, which now has multiple locations in greater L.A. and Orange County, was one of the first spots in SoCal to get Taiwanese shaved snow. There's also the popular Blockheads Shavery, which incorporates seasonal flavors and hip ingredients like sea salt vanilla.
- Class 302: 1015 Nogales St., #125, Rowland Heights.
- Blockheads Shavery: 11311 Mississippi Ave., West L.A.
Indonesian es teler
Es teler (or ice teler) is one of Indonesia's favorite desserts, which makes sense given the country's hot and humid weather. "Teler" means drunk or high. When the dessert was created in the early 1980s, Indonesian teens would say it was so good it gave them a buzz. Es teler typically consists of a bowl of crushed ice topped with young coconut, jackfruit, avocado, coconut milk and condensed milk. The version at Simpang Asia uses cream but you can also try the old school version at Ramayani in Westwood or at Wong Java House in Alhambra.
- Ramayani: 1777 Westwood Blvd., Westwood.
- Simpang Asia: 10433 National Blvd., #2, Palms.
- Wong Java House: 1936 W. Valley Blvd., Alhambra.
Unlike the other shaved ice creations on this list, Italian ice isn't made by adding flavor to ice but by freezing a liquid mixture of water and fruit juices or purees. "Italian ice" is actually an American invention, created in 1915 by an Italian immigrant in New Jersey who wanted to recreate the granitas she had back in her home country. Despite containing no dairy, Italian ice has a creamier texture than Sicilian granita. Some of L.A.'s best can be found at Italian Ice Shoppe or at Sonny's Amazing Italian Ices and Cremes. Italian Ice Shoppe also sells their wine-flavored ices at Malibu Wine and Beer Garden. The chain Rita's Italian Ice makes a credible version and has multiple locations around town, including the three below.
- Italian Ice Shoppe: 19942 ½ Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills.
- Sonny's Amazing Italian Ices & Cremes: 15030 Ventura Blvd., Ste 17, Sherman Oaks.
- Rita's Italian Ice: 4821 Lankershim Blvd., Ste. G, North Hollywood.
- Rita's Italian Ice: 11073 W Pico Blvd., West L.A.,
- Rita's Italian Ice: 4114 Sepulveda Blvd., Ste. C, Culver City.
Raspado comes from the Spanish word "raspar," which means to scrape, as it was traditionally scraped by hand. These days, shops rely on machines. Raspados typically have a coarser texture than Hawaiian or Japanese shave ice and are topped with fruit or nut-based syrups. You'll often see them made with the savory and spicy condiment chamoy along with mango and tamarind. Bionicos Daisy is known for their chamango, a blended version that combines chamoy with mango and is topped with fresh mango slices. On the sweet side, head to Raspados don Manuel in Boyle Heights, which is known for their raspado de nuez (walnuts). In L.A., raspado shops are ubiquitous and can be found in tons of neighborhoods.
- Raspados don Manuel: 2848 E 4th St., Boyle Heights.
- Bionicos Daisy: 2010 W Pico Blvd., Pico Union.
Malaysian ice kacang
The name ice kacang refers to the red beans used in this dessert, which became a Penang staple after Chinese immigrants opened roadside stalls to sell them. A Penang ice kacang is also topped with sweet corn and attap chee (nipa palm fruits) but kacang doesn't just mean beans. The same term is used for peanuts and many shops add them to the dessert, along with the other toppings like grass jelly, evaporated milk and palm sugar. Malaysian food is hard to come by in L.A. so you'll have head to Orange County for ice kacang. You can find it at Seasons Kitchen in Anaheim and Belacan Grill in Tustin.
- Seasons Kitchen: 641 N. Euclid St., Anaheim.
- Belacan Grill: 17460 17th St., Tustin.