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Where’s the D?

Where’s the “D”?

Rainbow Shave Ice

No, we didn’t spell that wrong! In Hawaii you’ll never hear one of the locals call it a “shaved” ice. They always refer to this fine, fluffy treat as a “Shave Ice” or, sometimes, an “Ice Shave”. That’s how you know it’s made the Hawaiian way. If you want the real taste of the islands you gotta drop the “d”. It may be bad grammar, but it gets hot here in the Phoenix Metro area and nothing cools you off in 115 degree weather quite like a cold, refreshing “shave” ice from Glendale Water ‘n Ice!

A little history…

Matsumoto Shave Ice Stand

Matsumoto Shave Ice Stand

Ah, shave ice, that fluffy, sweet, melt in your mouth delicacy from Hawaii!  Shave ice can be found everywhere on the islands – coffee shops, lunch wagons, mom and pop grocery stores, and at almost every public event. One of the most famous stands, if not THE most famous, is Matsumoto Shave Ice in the classic surfer town of Haleiwa on Oahu’s north shore.  An authentic shave ice always starts with a block of ice that is spun across a razor-sharp blade, which creates a soft, snow-like texture.

The earliest origins of a snow-like dessert actually go all the way back to Roman Emperor Nero in 27 B.C. Whew, that’s old! Legend has it that Nero sent his servants to nearby mountains to collect snow, which they would bring back and flavor with a fruit and honey mixture to create one of the emperor’s favorite desserts. Not exactly “shaved” ice, but close. 

During the Industrial Revolution, wagons carrying ice blocks from New York to the southern United States, would pass through Baltimore and hand out ice shavings to kids whose parents would then add flavoring. By the 1930’s “snowballs”, as they were called, had become a popular treat at movie theaters. In 1939, Ernest Hansen invented the first electric ice-shaving machine.  But Hawaiian Shave Ice has a different history all it’s own.

The Japanese…

Kakigori

Kakigori stall at a Yosakoi Festival in Kobe, Japan

In Japan, shave ice is called Kakigori and dates back to the Heian period from 794 to 1185 A.D. Back then ice (not snow) was brought down from the mountains in the winter and stored in a cave called ‘Himuro’, which means “ice room” in Japanese.  At the time, ice was rare and expensive!  Shave ice was a luxurious treat reserved just for royalty. Modern shave ice, as we know it today, is said to have been invented in the port town of Yokohama, Japan in 1869. By the early 1900’s, shave ice was common in stores throughout Japan.

“Hawaiian” Shave Ice dates back to the sugar plantation days of the former Republic of Hawaii. In the 1920’s, thousands of Japanese immigrants flocked to Hawaii to work on the plantations. They brought with them this delicate, frozen treat that we now call shave ice.  The workers enjoyed it as a refreshing break in the hot, tropical climate. They used their machetes to shave fine flakes of ice from large blocks into cups, and then poured different fruit juice flavorings over the top. Eventually, these immigrants moved off the plantations and opened their own family grocery stores selling shave ice along with groceries and other household goods.  It became custom to add a scoop of vanilla ice cream or azuki bean paste at the bottom of the cup, and a splash of cream or condensed milk, called a snow cap, over the top.  This proved to be a huge commercial success!

A taste of the islands…
Drip Drop Shave Ice

Today Shave Ice is popular all over the world. It’s known by different names such as “Gola Gunda” in Pakistan, “Juski” in India, “Ice Kachang” in Singapore, “Raspa, Raspado, or Raspadillo” in Mexico and Peru, and of course, “Shaved Ice” (with that stinkin’ d) right here on the mainland.  But none of these can compare with a real, authentic Hawaiian Shave Ice.

Now I suppose something is better than nothing on a hot summer day and, if you really have to, you could probably make due with a “shaved ice” or a “snow cone” at one of those other places. But if you want the real taste of the islands, come on down to Glendale Water ‘n Ice, because we drop the “d”.


 

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