What is it?

Hawaiian Shave ice
All you really need to know about the history of shave ice is where to find a really good one.

But this cooling staple of Hawai'i food history does come with a few guidelines, unless you want to sound like a malihini couple from the Mainland spilling syrup all over your matching aloha shirts.

Number 1 It's not shaved ice. It's shave ice.

Number 2: And it's not a snow cone. The ice here is freshly grated, coarser, which makes it lighter and flakier. This allows it to absorb more syrup. Bruddah, it's gourmet.

Number 3: Connoisseurs fill the bottom of the cup with azuki or a base of ice cream, and sometimes dribble evaporated milk over the top.

Shave ice is said to have been brought to Hawai'i by the thousands of Japanese immigrants who came to the Islands in the mid-1880s to work on sugar plantations. In those days it was only sold on Sundays, which happened to be the only day off the plantation workers received. Workers would take a block of ice and shave it as if planing a block of wood, and drench it in syrup.

When Japanese immigrants moved off the plantations and opened their own family-run grocery stores, shave ice went commercial and it was hugely popular.

There are favorites everywhere, especially in older neighborhoods: Matsumoto Shave Ice in Hale'iwa, Aoki's Shave Ice, which also is in Hale'iwa, and Waiola Store in McCully.

And just as everyone has a favorite store, there are favorite flavors, too. Strawberry. Coconut. Lime. Li hing mui. Bubble gum. Liliko'i. Of course, if you can't decide on just one, go with the ever-popular rainbow.

Posted on: Sunday, July 2, 2006
Honolulu Advertiser
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