Its about time I write a post about one of my favorite desserts in the whole wide world. Taiwanese shaved ice.
Taiwan is hot in the summer. So, so, so, so, hot. That disgusting, nasty sticky, humid hot. That kind of suffocating, hard-to-breath-in humid hot. Its kind of miserable. Don’t bother putting make-up on before you leave the house because it’ll all just melt off your face anyway.
But I embrace the heat, because it enabled the genius Taiwanese to invent shaved ice. Taiwanese shaved ice is composed of a generous amount of shaved ice, most often flavored, which is topped with various toppings, such as fruit, dessert beans, ice-cream, cereal, marshmallows, candy, and whatever else you can think of (some are VERY creative), and then DRENCHED with condensed milk. Like a very advanced form of the snow cone.
Taiwanese shaved ice is one of my all-time favorite eats, so I seek it out everywhere I go… but of course, the shaved ice in Taiwan is by far the best.
My favorite Taiwanese shaved ice of all time is the Signature Herbal Dessert by Meet Fresh Sweets Shop.
The Signature Herbal Dessert is composed of five layers. The first layer is the shaved ice. But this isn’t just ice. A sweet herbal syrup (that’s what they call it) is poured over the ice. The syrup is lightly sweet, but has a hint of coffee-like bitterness, so the first layer is basically coffee flavored ice. The second layer is herbal jelly, which also has a coffee-ish taste. The next layer is composed of taro mochi balls, which I can only describe as a dense type of mochi. The fourth layer are sweet potato balls, which is still a type of mochi, but softer than the taro ones. The taro and sweet potato balls are my favorites in the bowl; I could (and have!) eat just bowls of them alone. The fifth layer (the GENIUS layer), is cream. Coffee creamer to be exact. You can pour optional (its still delicious without it, phenomenal with it) coffee creamer coffee creamer over your dessert and make it phenomenal. Its a slightly coffee flavored creamy sweet dessert playing off the fun textures of smooth jelly, chewy mochi, and the crunchy shaved ice. The first time I had this, I went back for a second bowl. Meet Fresh has a wide variety of fun variations on the signature dessert, which are all just as unique and tasty.
Meet Fresh’ Signature Herbal Dessert is quite unique, and very hard to duplicate (trust me, I’ve tried), so seek out a Meet Fresh if you can. I believe there are locations throughout Taiwan, Singapore, the Philippines, and Australia. There is a Meet Fresh knock-off chain in China (called Orange), but its disappointing compared to the real thing. Good if you’re in a country where Meet Fresh does not exist. Haven’t found a knock-off in California yet, but would love to see one…
Xin Fa Ting (辛發亭冰品店) in the Shilin Night Market of Taipei gives Meet Fresh a serious run for their money. This place specializes in snow ice, a trendy variation of traditional Taiwanese shaved ice. The flavored ice is ground into a soft texture resembling snow, and topped with the usual suspects. Its like eating a cloud. Heavenly. Xin Fa Ting has a huge flavor selection, and everything is delicious. You can easily find it in the super crowded market since there’s always a long line stretching out the door. Fluff Ice is a great spot for snow ice of the same style in Southern California.
My pick for best shaved ice in China goes to Bellagio, where Taiwanese shaved ice is a work of art. The trendy restaurant chain serves gourmet Taiwanese street food, but is best known for their gorgeous shaved ice towers. Its literally, a mountain of finely shaved ice, drowning in a pool of sweetened condensed milk, and covered in your choice of toppings. My favorite is always the peanut shaved ice. I’m pretty sure there is peanut butter blended into the mountain of ice, which is topped with crushed peanuts and condensed milk. I have no idea what type of peanuts they use (they’ve definitely been marinating in something), but the Bellagio combination of peanuts + ice + condensed milk = magic. They also have the most gorgeous ice smoothies (another twist on Taiwanese shaved ice), which deserve a separate blog post. Also, most locations are open 24/7. I make a stop at least twice everytime I am in China.
My go-to spot for Taiwanese shaved ice in Southern California is Class 302 in Rowland Heights. They specialize in huge portions of snow ice, or shaved snow as they call it, and the usual toppings. My favorite is the Mango and Mochi. Its a plate of mango flavored snow ice topped with fresh mangos, mochi – their mochi pieces are huge, and so fun to eat – and finished with a generous amount of condensed milk.
Since I live two hours away from any place that even offers Taiwanese shaved ice, I get desperate and make my own super simple version. Its impossible to make snow ice without one of those fancy machines, but basic shaved ice is simple enough to re-create at home. You can throw in any fruits and toppings of your liking.
Super Simple Taiwanese Shaved Ice
6 cups of ice
2 tsp vanilla extract (optional; I like the extra flavor)
1 cup fresh fruit of your choice, sliced/chopped (I like strawberries or mangoes. Kiwis and all berries are also good choices)
One 14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk; to taste
1/4 cup mochi (optional; I get my mochi from Yogurtland)
any other toppings you like (red beans, cereal flakes, marshmallows…)
Blend the ice and vanilla extract in a blender until fine. Pour into bowl and top with fruit and selected toppings. Pour a generous amount of condensed milk over everything; to taste.
Enjoy! Stay cool