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Yes, in Hawaii we call it “shave ice” rather than “shaved ice,” most likely because it rolls off the tongue so much better. This local treat is usually found at old mom and pop type stores or festivals and is one of my best memories growing up. With Hawaii’s tropical weather, shave ice is a delicious snack that is satisfying and completely customizable to your tastebuds.
These days most shave ice stores will let you choose up to 3 flavors for each shave ice. If you’re not sure of what to get, stick with “rainbow” as this is usually strawberry, vanilla and one other flavor (usually some other common fruit flavor of the store’s choice). It’s perfectly fine to order just 1 or 2 flavors on your shave ice, but the price will remain the same. There are also more adventurous flavors that kids are sure to love like chocolate or cotton candy (think Baskin Robbins). Shave ice stores are also a great place to try local flavors, so give those a try if you’re feeling a bit daring.
You’ll be amazed at the assortment of shave ice flavors any of these stores will have in their arsenal. Right in the front will be the most common choices while the lesser chosen (or lesser known) flavors will line up in every open space available. Although it may seem like chaos, these stores have a system that works and you’ll be able to get a shave ice with your favorite flavors in less than a minute. Take your time looking at the menu as these stores tend to have a very long list of flavors.
One other thing to note are the toppings! You’ll often find ice cream, condensed milk, azuki beans (Japanese sweet bean), mochi balls and li hing mui at most shave ice locations. My favorite has got to be the condensed milk. I tend to order tart flavors for my shave ice so the sweet condensed milk makes my dessert into a wonderful blend of sweet and tart. Ice cream is also a good choice if you think condensed milk is a bit too much sweetness for your tongue. But if you’re wanting a sweet base with some sour added to it, try some local li hing mui powder on top for a mini kick! As for those of you who like to have a little more substance than just flavored ice shavings, try adding both the azuki beans and mochi balls (both are Japanese desserts) that will easily fill you up to your next meal.
While shave ice itself is relatively common in Hawaii, there are a few stores that are downright famous so make sure you head to those if you’re really wanting the best experience. The line will probably be long, but you’ll find that it moves quickly as the stores have systemized the ordering process and it doesn’t take long for each customer to get their order. The most important thing is to savor the flavor and take that picture before it melts!