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A Close Shave: Taiwanese Shaved Ice

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Wed, Aug 25, 2010 at 2:36 PM

click to enlarge A "small" mango shaved ice at Pa Pa Walk - J. THURMAN
  • J. Thurman
  • A "small" mango shaved ice at Pa Pa Walk

Recently, we examined some international versions of shaved ice, and today we're delving more deeply into the style from Taiwan. Not to be confused with its Hawaiian namesake, or raspados, Taiwanese shaved ice is a three-dimensional creation covered in toppings. Think of it as an ice sundae.

The common choices for shaved ice are either ordering a single flavor, (with the most popular being mango or strawberry) or selecting three toppings. The toppings, which can just as often be found at the bottom of the bowl, cover a range of fruits (peach, lychee, pineapple), jellos (grass jelly, lemon, almond) and items such as sweetened beans, taro, tapioca pearls and soft-boiled peanuts. Sweetened condensed milk or brown sugar syrup can be drizzled over the ice too, and extra items can be added for an additional fee. With some locations featuring as many as 18 toppings, and a bevy of options in San Gabriel Valley, there are plenty of possibilities.

See our suggestions for Taiwanese shaved ice in San Gabriel Valley after the jump:

Pa Pa Walk is noted for its mountainous, large shaved ices, and the mango-topped one in particular. Cubes of ripe mango glisten atop the ice, and a large order is topped with a scoop of homemade mango ice cream. A small can easily serve two and the large can serve four. Don't like mango? No problem, as Pa Pa Walk has several other flavors to choose from and also makes "snowys," which take the concept one step further by freezing condensed milk with the ice before shaving.

click to enlarge Taiwanese ice slush at Shau May - J. THURMAN
  • J. Thurman
  • Taiwanese ice slush at Shau May

A long time favorite for what is billed as "Taiwanese ice slush" on their menu, Shau May was praised a decade ago by the Weekly's own Jonathan Gold. Warm Summer evenings find a steady queue of patrons selecting from the topping bar, and many tables sporting towering bowls of shaved ice. There is also a sister restaurant a couple of miles north in Alhambra, Kang Kang, which is nearly identical other than the name, and the choice of three additional toppings.

Hi Pei (the sign out front reads "Hi Pie") was once a Shau May outlet, and it shows, thanks to the topping bar and the smiling chef logo. Served in a Styrofoam bowl, the presentation may be lacking, but is more than made up for by what lurks beneath. An eight-treasures shaved ice, consisting (of course) of your choice of eight toppings is the highlight here, along with black sugar -- a sweetened molasses or sorghum that can be drizzled atop.

click to enlarge Shaving an ice disc at Old Country Cafe - J. THURMAN
  • J. Thurman
  • Shaving an ice disc at Old Country Cafe

The venerable Old Country Café is one of the oldest Taiwanese restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley, and still a favorite spot for shaved ice. One reason is the ice machine which uses frozen discs instead of cubes. Perhaps the only place in the valley -- or last -- to do so, this gives a noticeably smoother texture to the ice. Lotus seed, longan, and sweetened corn are among the more unique of the 18 toppings to choose from.

Shau May Restaurant: 104 North Garfield Ave., Monterey Park, (626) 571-2727.

Kang Kang Food Court: 27 East Valley Boulevard Alhambra, (626) 308-3898.

Hi Pie Restaurant: 830 E. Valley Blvd., San Gabriel, (626) 569-9600.

Old Country Café: 2 E. Valley Blvd., #1-E, Alhambra, (626) 264-4610.

Pa Pa Walk: 227 W. Valley Blvd., Suite 148-B, San Gabriel. (626) 281-3889.

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