Shave ice can be found everywhere in the Hawaiian Islands ~ in coffee shops, mom and pop stores, shave ice stands, lunch wagons and especially at any and all public events. In Hawaii, shave ice is thought of as a snack and a thirst quencher.
An authentic shave ice starts with a block of ice that is spun across a razor-sharp blade (which shaves the ice creating a soft snow-like texture) on a special shaving machine. This gives you that light and fluffy product. It looks very similar to fresh fallen snow. Traditional snow cones are crushed ice, very coarsed ice and they hold the water too much water. This makes the snow cone heavy and the syrup poured on top of this type of snow cone drains quickly to the bottom of the cup. A Hawaiian shave ice uses syrups that are forumulated specifically for shave ice. When the syrup is combined with the shave ice, they do not drain to the bottom of the cup. It blends in with the powdery ice. You can usually have up to three flavors on one cone. My favorite flavor is the “blue vanilla”. There are many flavors to choose from like mango, pineapple, strawberry, passion orange, banana, and root beer. If you are lucky enough to try one in Hawaii you will find many local flavors of syrups. You can also request that a scoop of vanilla ice cream be added to the shave ice. Imagine the combination of the sweet shave ice and ice cream that blends in the bottom of your cup! Yummy!
Japanese plantation workers who migrated to Hawaii around 1920 to 1930 to work in the sugar and pineapple fields bought shave ice to Hawaii. The workers enjoyed it as a refreshing break in the hot, tropical climate. The pickers would use their machetes to shave flakes of ice from a large block of ice into cups, then pour different fruit juices over the top. These ice treats remain popular in Japan, which is the source of most shave ice machines.
If you ever get a chance to come to Hawaii, or maybe find a place that is selling genuine Hawaiian Shave Ice, you have to try it. Don’t be fooled by someone selling snow cones…it’s not the same ! The ice has to be shaved from a block of solid ice . That is the only way you will be able to say it’s a true shave ice. Whatever the season~it’s always time for a shave ice!