So what exactly is shave ice?
An authentic shave ice starts with a block of ice that is spun across a razor-sharp blade (which shaves the ice creating a soft snow-like texture). Then it is packed into a paper cone, and ﬂavored syrup is poured over the ice. Usually you can choose up to three ﬂavors. For an ultimate shave ice, add a scoop of vanilla ice cream or Azuki Beans (sweet red beans) in the bottom of the cone to create a delicious treat. Some places you can also request sweetened condensed milk or li-hing-mui powder (pulverized dried salted plum) to be poured on top. (via)
Shave Ice #1 I had my ﬁrst shave ice on July 29, 2009, a day I’ll never forget. I was walking alone on a crowded street in Waikiki Beach after baking myself in the sun all day, suddenly forgetting that I was in fact a redhead. The dehydration was starting to set in, along with the violently pink skin and the resulting shame. Like an oasis in the Sahara Desert, I saw a small cart parked underneath a palm tree, straddling the border where the street stopped and the beach began. An Asian teenager with a smile that stretched from ear to ear was masterfully shaving ice, the cool remnants ﬂying into the air before melting away into nothing. I had to have one, or face the possibility of fainting in public. It was called “The Rainbow,” a delicious mix of vanilla, strawberry, and blueberry. Immediately, my oncoming fever receded for a moment and feelings of euphoria started to ﬂow through my veins. I was hooked, and there was no going back.
Shave Ice #2 “This shaved ice is incredible.” “It’s shave ice.” “Shave-ah ice.” “No, ‘shave.’ Without the ‘D.’” “Shave-ded. Ice.” Not only did my next shave ice encounter include ice cream, Azuki beans, AND condensed milk, I got it at one of the most famous shave ice places in all of Hawaii: Matsumoto Shave Ice on the north shore of Oahu. I waited in a line for 20 minutes to get my shave ice, among biker dudes, surfers, screaming babies, and Texans. It was worth every second. The condensed milk drizzled on top only enhanced the ﬂavor, and the ice cream at the bottom of the cone was a welcomed surprise.
Shave Ice #3 My ﬁnal shave ice was eaten at the Polynesian Cultural Center, Hawaii’s version of Disneyland (think lots of grass skirts and ﬂaming head-dresses, banging drums, yelling, etc.). Ok, so maybe it’s not really like Disneyland, but it’s very theme park-esque. I was again on my own, trying to ﬁgure out the perfect way to spend my last night in Hawaii. The sun was setting, the cool breeze was starting to ﬂoat through the fake Fijian huts around me, and my impending departure from Hawaii was becoming all too real. To comfort myself, there was only one thing to do: get one last shave ice for the road. I picked strawberry and cream ﬂavoring, and I happily received what tasted like a strawberry root beer ﬂoat in ice form. It did the trick, making me feel at ease as I skipped on down the road to see the ﬁre-eaters perform and watch the Tahitian dancers shake their hips at breakneck speed. I used to think that photographs were a great way to bring back memories of a vacation. Certain songs remind me of great trips of the past, or even the smell of the ocean can help me reminisce. But I found out in Hawaii, where the cuisine is a melting pot of the best indigenous foods from around the world, the most eﬃcient way to capture a memory is to eat a shave ice during whatever activity you’re pursuing. It’s much better than lugging a camera around, and will leave something more permanent than a tattoo. No other food is more authentic to Hawaii, and no other food will help you feel more connected to this great place. So if you ever ﬁnd yourself wandering around Oahu, do as I did: have another shave ice and make some memories. — Alison