|"Rainbow" shave ice from Big Daddy's, Moloka'i|
click on photos to view larger
|Big Daddy's shave ice machine|
|Adding all the flavors of the rainbow|
In Hawaii, shave ice has evolved into a Hawaiian signature dessert. Since 1934, shave ice has been made by machines that produce a very fine ice that appears snow-like. It is then mounded and coated with colorful tropical flavored syrup. Because the ice is so fine, the syrup stays in the ice, not at the bottom of the cone.
You can also add a scoop of vanilla ice cream or azuki bean paste at the bottom of the cone, or top it off with a "snow cap"-some sweetened, condensed milk drizzled over the top. In Hawaii, you can find shave ice almost 24/7 at specialty shave ice stands, mom-and-pop stores, cafes, or even several adult versions found in bars, with alcohol added.
Actually shave ice is not "new" at all, and is not even Hawaiian. It was first introduced to Hawaii by Japanese immigrants working on sugar plantations in the 1920s. They would shave fine pieces of ice from large blocks of ice using Japanese swords that were family heirlooms.
The Japanese have been making shave ice since the Heian Period, 794 to 1185, and is known as "kakigōri" in Japan. Originally ice was brought down from the mountains and stored in caves, then shaved and served only to royalty.
When first introduced to Hawaii, shave ice was sold solely on Sundays, the only day of the week immigrants rested. With the decline of Hawaiian sugar’s popularity, these immigrants moved off the plantations and opened their own family grocery stores. There they sold household goods along with shave ice which proved to be a huge commercial success.
In 1934, the first shaved ice machine was invented in New Orleans, Louisiana by Ernest Hansen, called the "Sno-Bliz™". It was a machine that would spin a block of ice over an ice shaving blade. After 73 years that same machine is still being used in the original ice shaving shop, Hansen's Sno-Bliz™ and Sweetshop Inc., operated by Hansen's granddaughter, Ashley, in New Orleans.
Shave ice exists all over the world today and is known by different names, but the best shave ice is only found in Hawaii. While on Maui, try: Ululani's Shave Ice in Lahaina, or Local Boys Snack Shop in Kihei. If you are on my island of Moloka'i, try: Big Daddy's, in Kaunakakai, or Coffee's of Hawaii in Kualapuu. On the Big Island, try: Avenue Ice Cream in Waimea, or Tropical Island Flavors in Kailua-Kona. Oahu has the largest number of shave ice places in the state, try: Matsumoto Shave Ice in Haleiwa, Shimazu Store in Kalihi, Ailana Shave Ice in Ala Moana, Waiola Shave Ice in Moilili or Jung's Shave Ice in Honolulu.
No matter what island you’re on, Manhattan, to Okinawa, to Moloka'i grab a shave ice, it's the hot new way to be cool on hot sunny days. Aloha!