Snowflake Shaved Ice (Taiwan)
Given my love for Taiwanese snowflake shaved ice, of course I had to try it from the source.
As a quick recap, snowflake or snow ice was introduced in Taiwan a few years ago. Instead of crushing/shaving blocks of ice, water and condensed milk are mixed together and frozen. These condensed milk ice blocks are then finely shaven in special machines. The addition of the condensed milk and the shaving process creates an ice that is much more fine, fluffy, and tastes almost like ice cream rather than ice.
The last time I visited Taiwan, snowflake ice hadn’t yet become popular. So after eating it at various places in LA, I was curious to how it compared in Taiwan.
One thing I observed during my trip was that while snowflake ice is only now developing popularity in the US, its popularity in Taiwan seems to have waned quite a bit. In fact, the places we did try it at were mostly full of tourists. When I mentioned wanting to eat it to my relatives, they preferred the traditional old school shaved ice.
First up, Yu’s Almond Tofu (http://www.yustofu.com.tw/)
I love the way the ice falls into sheets. This spot is quite famous for their almond tofu snow ice. I got the recommendation from Hungry Girl in Taipei. It’s a chain of stores and I found locations in night markets, shopping malls, etc.
Almond tofu is a popular chinese dessert. It’s not actually tofu. It’s chunks of agar agar jelly, flavored with almond milk. The jellies are white in color, resembling tofu.
The snow shaved ice here was quite cheap (about $3-4 US dollars for a bowl). The toppings were a bit limited. They offered traditional shaved ice toppings like mochi balls, red bean, sweetened peanuts, mung bean, chewy jellies, etc. They placed the toppings at the bottom and then covered it with ice. I prefer my toppings to be on top so I know what I’m eating.
We really liked the snow ice here, especially since this is a flavor I haven’t yet seen in the US. Also the price was great. We polished off 3 or 4 between six people in one visit.
Since we had said we wanted to eat shaved ice, my aunt recommended we go to a spot famous for mango shaved ice, Yong Kang 15 (永康15), 15 Yong-kang St., Taipei City; +886 2 2321 3367, formerly known as Ice Monster. It’s not snow ice though, it’s the more traditional (ice chunks) shaved ice. I was surprised by how pricey it was ($8-10 a bowl). They do use generous portions of fresh mangos and top it with a mango sorbet, but I still thought it was overpriced.
We indulged in one mango flavored one and one with more traditional toppings (red bean, taro).
Even though this wasn’t snow ice, we still liked it. The ice was more finely shaved than the shaved ice you usually encounter. The mangos were juicy and sweet.
While walking to this place, we actually passed by a store advertising snow shaved ice. So after polishing off those two big bowls, what did we do? We stopped in on this snow ice place.
Smoothie House (http://www.smoothie.com.tw/). This place was a huge tourist attraction, with almost all the customers speaking Japanese. It’s very close by to Din Tai Fung, another big attraction for Japanese people so it seemed that a lot of them came here for dessert after eating at DTF.
Here, we ordered the mango snow ice. The ice itself is flavored with mango syrup already. The ice wasn’t as finely shaven as Yu’s Almond Tofu, but it was still good. Mangoes were sweet, and I liked the ice cream on top. There was an artificial taste to the mango ice that I didn’t love though. I actually think the mango flavored ice I’ve had at Class 302 in LA was better.
I found the wall decor at this place quite amusing. They had their mascot posing in front of various well-known cities. Some of the illustrations didn’t make much sense but they were amusing to look at.
We polished off two large ones..and wanted more. So we got a third one. After this, we finally left. For those keeping count, that was 5 shaved ices in a span of about 2 hours shared by 5 people.
After all this “research,” I’m happy to report that the snow ice I ate in Taiwan is just as good in Los Angeles (though Taiwan was a bit cheaper). Usually I’m disappointed by the Taiwanese food here in the US as it never seems to live up to the version in Taiwan, but for once, this is not the case.