If having a fellow food blogger diss your favorite dessert as boorish ain't fighting words, they at least are eating ones. So when a certain blogger read our Squid Ink story on Korean patbingsu and commented that the Taiwanese shaved snow dish baobing was so far superior, we suddenly found ourselves following up the veritable avalanche of shaved ice we'd just eaten with still more shaved ice.
In general, it's the toppings that set patbingsu and baobing apart, the latter generally being thought of as slightly more refined thanks to treats like rice cake, almond tofu, and grass jelly. (Faintly tea-flavored, grass jelly neither looks like, tastes like, or contains anything remotely grass-like. Discuss?)
In search of L.A.'s Top 5 baobing, we shivered our way through a number of contenders, all of which varied widely in texture. The mango shaved snow at Pa Pa Walk, for instance, is like fresh powder at Deer Valley; the Sugar Daddy-flavored baobing at Apo Apo in Rowland Heights has the grain of something ground out by a Snoopy Snow Cone Machine.
As we sped down the 60 to our last planned stop, the Rowland Heights shaved snow hot (cold?) spot Class 302, we contemplated the potential order of our upcoming baobing Top 5. But by the time we'd had our first bite, that list was history. So completely, so thoroughly, so utterly did Class 302, well... ice the competition, that every other frozen dessert we'd eaten --Taiwanese and otherwise -- was suddenly irrelevant.
Really, to call what Class 302 serves 'ice,' or even 'snow' wouldn't quite be accurate. What we're talking about is more like an airy, Halvah-like network of small, crisscrossing frozen strands and shards. In the mouth, it's oddly without density, and yet somehow substantial, like frozen cotton candy. There are several flavors--the pleasantly earthy green tea is especially nice, and made by shaving frozen milk and green tea rather than the slushy concoction that would result if it had merely been splashed on top.
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But nothing else approaches the brain-inverting silkiness of the original milk snow, especially when buried in strawberries and generous squiggles of chocolate fudge.
Unfortunately, most of Rowland Heights already knows about Class 302, and it will seem as if all of them are in line ahead of you when you arrive. The tiny restaurant (classroom themed, complete with blackboard, wooden desk tables, and schoolbags dispensing napkins and chopsticks) is so popular that it requires the same blinking, flashing, vibrating wait list buzzers they use at franchise behemoths like the Cheesecake Factory. One recent Saturday evening at Class 302, there was a good half hour wait. Outside. In the bitter cold. For ice.
In closing, we'd like to add that while the amount of snow we consumed in a couple of months was a bunny hill compared to, say, Elina Shatkin's ambitious and arterially ill-advised 30 burgers in thirty days, we'd sure appreciate it if you all kept any other icy inspirations (Japanese kakigori, Filipino halo halo, Malaysian ice kacang, Italian granita, et al.) to yourselves, please. At least until the other side of winter.