What is shaved ice ? (plus the best 8 in Asia)

What is shaved ice ? (plus the best 8 in Asia)

Apr 17, 2023 Tags 

If you're a fan of frozen desserts, then you've probably heard of shaved ice. This popular treat originated in Japan and has since become a beloved dessert in many countries around the world. But what exactly is shaved ice, and how is it made? In this article, we'll provide a comprehensive guide to shaved ice, including its history, different types, how to make it at home, and the benefits of this delicious dessert. So sit back, relax, and let's dive into the world of shaved ice!


What is Shaved Ice?


Shaved Ice


Shaved ice is a frozen dessert made by shaving a block of ice and adding flavored syrups, condensed milk, and other toppings. It originated in Japan and is known as "kakigori" in Japanese. Shaved ice is popular in many countries, including the United States, where it is commonly served at fairs, carnivals, and other events during the summer months.


The History of Shaved Ice


Shaved ice has a long history, dating back to the Heian period in Japan. At that time, ice was harvested during the winter months and stored in underground pits called "yukimuro" to preserve it for use in the summer. The ice was shaved by hand and served with fruit, sweetened condensed milk, and other toppings. In the early 1900s, a machine was invented to automate the process of shaving ice, making it easier and more efficient to produce shaved ice.


Types of Shaved Ice


Traditional Japanese Shaved Ice


There are many different types of shaved ice, including Hawaiian shaved ice, Korean bingsu, and Taiwanese shaved snow. Hawaiian shaved ice is typically made with a coarser ice texture and flavored syrups, while Korean bingsu is made with a finer ice texture and topped with fruit, condensed milk, and other toppings. Taiwanese shaved snow is made with a combination of shaved ice and milk, resulting in a creamy and fluffy texture.


How to Make Shaved Ice at Home


Making shaved ice at home is a fun and easy activity that can be enjoyed with family and friends. To make shaved ice at home, you will need a shaved ice machine, flavored syrups, and toppings such as fruit, sweetened condensed milk, and mochi. First, fill the shaved ice machine with ice and turn it on. Once the ice is shaved, add your desired flavored syrups and toppings, and enjoy!


Benefits of Shaved Ice


Shaved ice is a refreshing and delicious treat that is perfect for hot summer days. It is also a healthier alternative to other frozen desserts, as it is typically lower in calories and fat. Shaved ice can also be customized to suit individual preferences, with a variety of flavored syrups and toppings available.



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Asia's 8 best Shaved Ice


For centuries, long before the invention of refrigerators, Asians have been indulging in the scrumptious, cold treat that is shaved ice. Though not everyone had access to this luxury in the scorching summer months, thanks to advancements in technology like the ice machine, trade, and travel, the icy dessert has become a part of the continent's food culture. Today, people worldwide can relish these frozen treats too.

Shaved ice comes in various forms and has unique characteristics in each country. Let's explore the different types of Asian shaved ice desserts, starting with Japan's kakigori. During summer, festivals and foods to beat the heat dominate Japan, and kakigori is a favourite. The dessert comprises finely shaved ice that can be paired with fruit syrups or topped with sweetened condensed milk, sweet red bean paste, and dango mochi. The flavour options range from strawberry to matcha green tea, lemon, and mango.


Japan: Kakigori


Japanese Kakigori


Festivals, travel, and delicacies to ward off the heat are all associated with summer in Japan. We're starting with kakigori, a type of Japanese shaved ice, because we enjoy the culinary expertise of Japan.

During the steamy summer months in Japan, you can find this freshly shaved ice on just about every street corner. It might be as basic as an ice-and-fruit-syrup refresher or as complicated as a dessert topped with sweet red bean (azuki bean paste), creamy sweetened condensed milk, and dango mochi.

Even at Gion Matsuri, one of Japan's most well-known summer events, you can eat kakigori. It's the ideal summertime treat to take pleasure in following a long day of sightseeing.

Although the flavors of kakigori can vary greatly, some of the most common choices include:


Taiwan: Tshah-ping


Taiwan Tshah Ping


Taiwan's tshuah-ping, also known as tsua bing or baobing, is a popular shaved ice dessert known for its juicy toppings. It comes topped with sugar water, sweetened condensed milk, seasonal fruit, or variations like xuehua bing, which has frozen milk, mung beans, and grass jelly.


South Korea: Bingsu or Bingsoo


Korean Bingsu


South Korea's bingsu or bingsoo is another well-loved fluffy shaved ice dessert. It differs from kakigori in that it has a milk base, giving it a creamier texture. Additionally, it is loaded with toppings like popping boba, chopped boba, and more.


Philippines: Halo-Halo


Philippines Halo Halo


The Philippines is famous for halo-halo, a tall glass of shaved ice dessert. The dessert's uniqueness comes from the possible add-ins, including tapioca balls, saba bananas, sweetened azuki and white beans, evaporated milk, and leche flan, among others. Vanilla ice cream or ube (purple yam) ice cream can also be added. Dive into this colourful dessert with a spoon or wafer cookies and mix, mix to experience its unique texture and flavour.


India: Gola


India Ice Gola


In India, shaved ice desserts go by various names like gola, baraf gola, ice gola, chuski, ice lolly, and more. Ice gola is served on a stick and is popular street food. Like American shaved ice, it consists of finely shaved ice, topped with different fruity and sugary syrups.


Indonesia: Es Campur


Indonesian Es Campur


Es campur, meaning mixed ice, is Indonesia's version of shaved ice dessert. It is similar to bingsu and halo-halo in that it has elaborate toppings like chopped fruit, coconut, tapioca pearls, condensed milk, and grass jelly.


Thailand: Namkhaeng Sai


Thailand Namkhaeng Sai


Wan yen is another name for the Thai dessert known as Namkhaeng Sai. Be prepared for everything to turn upside down even though this shaved ice dessert has some elements in common with others—namely, the shaved ice. Everything is reversed in this kind of shaved ice.

The toppings—which are numerous—go on the bottom of a dish of namkhaeng sai. This dish begins with a sizable bowl and one of these intriguing toppings:

  • Bread
  • Basil seeds
  • Jackfruit
  • Grass jelly
  • Red beans
  • Sweet potato
  • Pineapple
  • Pumpkin

Sprinkle with your favorite toppings and some syrup for your very own delicious namkhaeng sai.


Turkey: Bici Bici


Turkey Bici Bici


Finally, Turkey's bici bici is a unique shaved ice dessert made with flour, water, and sugar syrup, topped with lemon juice, cinnamon, and walnuts.





In conclusion, Asia's shaved ice desserts are an excellent way to cool down in the summer heat. Each country has its unique style of shaved ice dessert with different toppings, flavours, and textures. So next time you're in Asia, make sure to try out these delicious desserts and experience their diverse flavours.

Check out our Japanese Snack Box if you want to find some of the best & most refreshing flavors from Japan!