Part snow cone, part ice cream cone, and all good, a shave ice is a frozen delicacy peculiar to the Hawaiian islands. Although it should probably be called "shaved ice" to reflect its construction, it's traditional to use the local pidgin pronunciation of the name. A shave ice consists of a series of ingredients, packed into a paper cone or cup. Typically a spoon and a straw (or a combination implement) is used for eating. In order of placement, a shave ice consists of:
Despite the ease of its construction, a shave ice is difficult to reproduce in the home. Most people go to a favorite shave ice vendor for this treat. The reason for the difficulty is the shaved ice itself: making it involves drawing a large, very sharp blade over an equally large ice block. Shave ice creation involves a small amount of tasty but elementary thermodynamics. The room-temperature syrup, when poured over the ice, is just warm enough to melt the ice particles a little bit, and then refreeze, producing instant custom-flavored slush. The sharpness of the blade can actually affect the flavor of the shave ice. The sharper the blade, the finer the ice particles; if the ice particles aren't small enough, the syrup simply drips through to the bottom, leaving the ice with little flavor.
Originally, shave ice was made by professionals who expertly wielded scoop-shaped blades by hand over the ice blocks. Now, of course, vendors use electric shave ice machines which rotate the blade over a cylindrical block of ice. This allows the vendors to concentrate on the shave ice's real attraction, which is flavor combinations. Each vendor offers a special menu of flavor recipes, and competes with the others to produce original combinations. Hawaiian syrups include exotic fruit flavors, like lychee, papaya, passionfruit, coconut, macadamia nut, and li hing.
Matsumoto Shave Ice. "The best shave ice in the world". www.matsumotoshaveice.com. Accessed Feb 23, 2002.
Jay's Shave Ice. "Welcome to Jay's Shave Ice." www.jaysshaveice.com. Accessed Feb 23, 2002.
Doughty, Andrew, and Friedman, Harriet. The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook : Kauai Revealed (Ultimate Kauai Guidebook, 4th Ed).
Lihue: Wizard Publications, 2001. pp 51, 196.