My recent trip to Hawaii reignited my love for Shaved Ice. Granted, my commitment to sourcing out quality Shaved Ice has never wavered. I've been known to drive miles out of the way for a taste of this icy cool treat.
This affair started many, many years ago when I was first introduced to Shaved Ice as a kid in Hawaii...after that day, I never looked at another Snow Cone again. And how could I (!) it's like comparing Super Mario to Super Mario 3....like having a Subaru all your life and then getting the keys to a Mercedes. You don't look back.
So obviously it drives me nuts when someone tries to argue that Shaved Ice and Snow Cones are one in the same. I thought I'd break down the differences and include a few other yummy varieties that I've had the pleasure of trying.
Origin: North America
Texture: Icy, Crunchy, Granular
Other notes: Nostalgic American treat that reminds you of childhood. Ice is ground vs. shaved. Doesn't really hold syrup flavors well, they drip to the bottom pretty quickly...so you better eat fast!
My perfect Snow Cone: None (ha!)
Origin: Hawaii by way of Japan
Texture: Soft, Snowy, Melt-in-your-mouth
Other Notes: Ice is shaved from a block. Holds flavor incredibly well...every bite is packed with flavor. In Hawaii, it's known as "Shave Ice" vs. "Shaved Ice"
My perfect Shave Ice: Strawberry, Vanilla and Coconut syrups with a scoop of Vanilla Bean ice cream on bottom and topped with condensed milk (aka Snow Cap)
Texture: Light, Airy, Smooth, Creamy
Other Notes: A cross between Ice Cream and Shave Ice. Blocks of ice are pre-flavored, usually with some sort of cream, milk or non-dairy alternative and then shaved. The cream helps the Snow Ice maintain its velvety ribbon shape as it folds onto the plate. It's unlike anything I've ever tasted and quickly became a new obsession...if you haven't had a chance to taste Snow Ice, you're missing out!
My Perfect Snow Ice: I love love love the Osmanthus flavor topped with condensed milk (In know...WHAT is that!?). It's a flower and really creates the most pleasant, slightly sweet, almost tea like floral flavor. My other fave is Honeydew topped with caramel.
Texture: Similar to Shave Ice but the base is usually topped with milk or condensed milk
Other Notes: I first had Patbingsu when I lived in Korea during high school. To be honest, I was afraid to try it at first because it was always covered with waaaaay too many toppings...azuki beans, mochi, cereal flakes, fruits, fruit jellies etc. Coming from the states that was just too wild an assortment for my naive little tastebuds. The azuki beans freaked me out most but once I tried them, I was surprised to discover how sweet they were and how well the grainy texture paired with the shaved ice.
My perfect Patbingsu: While my friends may like theirs loaded with every topping in sight...I prefer to keep it simple with a Fruit Patbingsu: Plain shaved ice with condensed milk topped with mango, kiwi and strawberries, a mini scoop of azuki beans and a few morsels of mochi on the side.