8 Different Types of Asian Shaved Ice
Long before you could find refrigerators in every kitchen, people in Asia have been enjoying the sweet, delightful treat that is shaved ice—as far back as the 11th century. That said, not everyone had access to this delicious privilege early on, especially in the hot summer months.
But thanks to the evolutions of technology like the ice machine, trade, and travel, the beloved cold dessert was adopted and adapted by people all over the continent. Now, it’s available for you to enjoy too.
So, what is shaved ice? As a matter of fact, the definition is completely different depending on where you go. We’re taking you on a trip around Asia to discover each country’s unique style of shaved ice. Grab your mittens—we’ll jump into these snow-inspired treats one by one.
#1 Japan: Kakigori
You can find this finely-shaved ice on just about every street corner during the humid summer months in Japan. It can range from a simple ice-and-fruit-syrup refresher to a more elaborately-topped dessert with creamy sweetened condensed milk, sweet red bean (azuki bean paste), and dango mochi.
You can eat kakigori at a local shop or even at Gion Matsuri, one of Japan’s most famous summer festivals. It’s the perfect summer treat to enjoy after a long day of sightseeing.
Kakigori flavors can vary widely, but some of the most popular options include:
- Matcha green tea
#2 Taiwan: Tshuah-ping
Tshuah-ping, also known as tsua bing or baobing, is another Asian shaved ice best known for its juicy toppings.
In Taiwan, you can find tshuah-ping topped with sugar water for a lighter treat, sweetened condensed milk for a creamy one, or seasonal fruit for a tart delight. Sometimes, you can find a variation of the classic, xuehua bing, where the shaved ice is made with frozen milk, mung beans, and grass jelly.
#3 South Korea: Bingsu
Bingsu, or bingsoo, is a widely popular type of fluffy shaved ice found in South Korea. Many people ask what the difference is between Japanese kakigori vs bingsu. There are two main distinctions:
#4 Philippines: Halo-halo
The Philippines has many crushed ice desserts. These include sno cone or Snow cone; a popular roadside treat similar to Hawaiian shaved ice. Then there's mais con yelo with sweet corn and condensed milk. But the most iconic Filipino shaved ice dessert is halo-halo.
Halo-halo, which translates to mix-mix. This dessert is served in an iconic tall glass so you can see every layer, texture, and flavor before you taste them.
Halo-halo takes its unique style from the many possible add-ins you can include. Some popular options are:
- Sago, a type of tapioca ball
- Saba bananas, which are unique to the Philippines
- Jackfruit preserved in syrup
- Sweetened azuki beans and white beans
- Evaporated milk
- Leche flan
- Vanilla ice cream or the more traditional ube (purple yam) ice cream
Dive in with a spoon or rolled wafer cookies. Follow the instructions of this treat’s name—mix, mix—and enjoy!
#5 India: Ice Gola
Indian shaved ice is the ultimate portable frozen street dessert—because it’s actually served on a stick. This colorful popsicle-shaped ice treat is popularly known by many names:
- Baraf gola
- Ice gola
- Ice lolly
- Shaved ice
- Snow cone
- Mumbai’s slurpee
No matter what you call it, be sure to try it. Ice gola is similar to shaved ice in the U.S., as it’s made with simple finely-shaved ice covered with various fruity, sugary syrups. Walk down the streets of Mumbai and you’re sure to see a rainbow of these fantastic desserts.
#6 Indonesia: Es Campur
Es campur means mixed ice in Indonesian. Compared to other options like kakigori, this ice dessert leans more in the direction of bingsu and halo-halo in its love for elaborate toppings.
When it’s ready to serve, the standard snowy ice flakes become adorned with toppings such as chopped fruit, coconut, tapioca pearls, condensed milk, and grass jelly—a bittersweet jelly dessert native to Southeast Asia.
#7 Turkey: Bici Bici
We’ve covered frozen ice treats that contain fruits, syrups, and condensed milk, but Turkey invites a new ingredient to their shaved ice party—starch.
In Turkey, makers of bici bici start by cooking starch in water to create a gelatinous, almost custard-like base, which is then cooled and chopped into cubes. This base is then piled high with shaved ice in a bowl and topped with another unique flavoring—rose water.
A sprinkle of sugar on the top of the final product makes this magic dessert shine.
#8 Thailand: Namkhaeng Sai
Namkhaeng sai is a shaved dessert from Thailand, which may also be called wan yen. While this shaved ice dessert shares some things in common with others—namely, the shaved ice—be prepared to go topsy-turvy. This version of shaved ice turns everything on its head.
In a serving of namkhaeng sai, the toppings go on the bottom—and a lot of them. This dish starts with a large bowl and your choice of any of these exciting toppings:
- Basil seeds
- Grass jelly
- Red beans
- Sweet potato
Top your add-ins with a hefty scoop of shaved ice and a squeeze of sweet syrup, and you have a beautiful, personalized bowl of delicious namkhaeng sai.
Break the Shaved Ice with Help from Bokksu
If all of the different shaved ice options have you feeling envious, don’t worry—you don’t have to be a world traveler to experience some of the tremendous flavors of Asian shaved ice. (But if you do go on a shaved ice world expedition, can we come?)
We have tons of Asian shaved ice toppings and other authentic Japanese treats for you at Bokksu. Top your homemade kakigori with gourmet gomadare mochi or refreshing yuzu konjac jelly. You’ll have your summer guests begging for more.
At Bokksu, we source high-quality Japanese snacks and treats from local Japanese makers. When you sign up for a box, you support local Japanese businesses making food from the heart. Get a Bokksu Japanese subscription box today!
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