Taiwanese shaved ice has been featured before at Squid Ink, and with good reason. It's perhaps the perfect summer dessert. However, as good as shaved ice is, it's just so 2010. This year, it's all about the next level of frozen concoction: shaved snow. Made by freezing milk into the ice and then shaving it to produce a snow like texture, hence the name. As if that wasn't enough, different flavors can be added into the ice prior to shaving.
A year ago, the only places that served shaved snow were the incredibly popular Class 302 in Rowland Heights, Alhambra's ID Cha House and San Gabriel's Pa Pa Walk, which is better known for the size of its mango shaved ices. This year has seen snow falling across the San Gabriel Valley, so to speak, with the addition of at least six more places that sell the frozen treat. For this week's food fight, we pit two of the newer proponents against one another in a green tea shaved snow battle between Salju Dessert and Fluff Ice. Not coincidentally, they also are the two westernmost outposts of snow.
Opened in July, Salju, which is Indonesian for ice, has six different flavors of snow, five "syrups" and 30 toppings to choose from. Toppings range from those found at your average froyo shop (Oreo crumbs, chocolate chips, rainbow sprinkles) to those found on SGV shaved ice menus (grass jelly, red bean, taro), with 10 different fruit toppings available. While the Indonesian ownership didn't lead to durian as a topping, they do have jackfruit. A nice touch is providing each table a squeeze bottle of condensed milk: drizzle on as much as you wish. Salju's matcha green tea flavor is subtle, and per Asian tastes, barely sweet. Texture wise, the snow is nice and light, though somehow somewhat dry on a couple of our visits. And, no, the fact that we're writing about a Japanese flavored, Taiwanese dessert served in an Indonesian establishment isn't lost on us. It's why we love L.A.
Located in Monterey Park's Atlantic Times Square complex, Fluff Ice features 9 flavors of snow, 14 toppings and two syrups, either condensed milk or chocolate syrup. Fluff Ice's version was much sweeter and richer and had a much thicker texture than that at Salju. On the downside, it was a smaller serving for the same price ($5.50), and with one fewer topping, two instead of three. Four "premium" toppings, including mochi, are an additional .50 to .75 cents each and the selection of fruit choices is down to just mango and strawberry. The only toppings Fluff Ice has that Salju doesn't are baby gummy bears, yogurt chips and three of the "premium" toppings. Neither place has snacks, or much in the way of a menu past snow (Fluff Ice has a small tea menu).
The verdict? At least for the green tea, we have to give the western SGV snow battle to Fluff Ice on flavor and texture, though with many caveats. Their selection and price could be better and some will prefer the milder, less sweet version at Salju.
Will either make anyone forget the standard bearer, Class 302? We can't say, as we've yet to manage to get inside Class 302. But, for those who'd prefer not driving the extra distance to Rowland Heights, Salju Dessert and Fluff Ice are reasonable alternatives.
Salju Dessert: 35 W. Valley Blvd., Suite B, Alhambra, (626) 289-3578. Fluff Ice: 500 N. Atlantic Blvd., Suite 153, Monterey Park, (626) 872-2123.