Food and Drink

Why Fluffy Shaved Ice Is the Best Shaved Ice

Forget icy snow cones and opt for bing-su, kakigōri, or Taiwanese shaved snow.

Photo courtesy of Snoice
Photo courtesy of Snoice
Photo courtesy of Snoice

There is nothing better for cooling off in the summer than an ice-based dessert. There are popsicles, snowballs and snow cones, and slushies dyed in alarming shades of red and blue. But the shaved ice that stands out among this genre of desserts is bingsu, baobing, and kakigōri-the respective Korean, Taiwanese, and Japanese versions of frozen treats.

Instead of jagged ice chips that require crunching, these East Asian versions of shaved ice are much softer and fluffier, melting on the tongue rather than requiring active chewing. “For those who haven’t tried shaved snow, think of it as soft, flavoured ribbons that melt in your mouth,” explains Jayrell Ringpis, the co-owner of San Diego-based Snoice. “Although a snow cone may be a similar ice treat, shaved snow has the flavour incorporated into the dessert rather than having a flavoured syrup poured on top.”

At Snoice, the base flavours for their shaved snow include strawberry, honeydew, Oreo, and the Filipino sweet potato known as ube. Instead of freezing blocks of water for the dessert, blocks of cream base are used. That, paired with the proprietary machines that expertly shave the ice into fine layers, are what makes for the exceptionally soft texture that fold like birthday ribbons.

“Our goal here at Snoice is to bring our culture and community together through our love for desserts,” Ringpis adds. “We specialize in shaved snow, boba tea, and a traditional Filipino dessert known as halo-halo to share something new that everyone can try.”

It’s not just the base that makes shaved snow stand out from snow cones. A huge part of the dessert are the toppings, that range from traditional-like red bean, mochi balls, and injeolmi powder (or soy bean powder)-to more American, like Oreos and hearty slices of cheesecake.

Such is the case at Oakobing, a bingsu shop in Los Angeles with locations in Koreatown and Pasadena. “We want to promote Korean bingsu in the American Market but thought going completely traditional could be a little bit too foreign for those who are not familiar,” says Oakobing manager Ben K. “We tweaked the bingsu in our own way-you can think of it as a fusion-style dessert.”

Photo courtesy of Oakobing
Photo courtesy of Oakobing
Photo courtesy of Oakobing

There are two extremely popular versions of bingsu at Oakobing. First is the mango melon flavour, which features mango-flavoured shaved ice served in a melon bowl and crowned with spherical pearls of honeydew melon. The Injeolmi harkens back to bingsu’s Korean roots, with a tower of milk-flavoured ice, scoops of sticky red bean, a dusting of roasted soybean powder that gives the dish its name, and a drizzle of condensed milk to finish it off.

“When most people think of shaved ice, they literally think of ice that is flavoured with syrup,” Ben says. “Our ice has flavour to begin with; it’s made from scratch in our store and the texture is softer and fluffier than other forms of shaved ice.”

Although fluffy shaved ice is certainly popular in California and up-and-down the West Coast, from San Diego to Seattle, it’s not limited to this geographical region. In Florida, three locations of Litchi Delights carry shaved ice inspired by Japanese kakigōri.

“The concept of shaved ice comes from Japanese immigrants who came to Hawaii back in the mid-1800s,” says Alina Zerpa, the marketing director of Litchi Delights. “They’d use their tools to shave off pieces of ice and then top them with sugar or fruit juice. And so here we are in 2022, doing the same thing-with a whole lot more options.”

The dish at Litchi Delights is called snow ice, because that’s what it resembles: an avalanche of gently shaved snow that’s completely customizable, from the base to the toppings to the sauce. “Our shaved ice is really catered towards our customers because you can really make it whatever you want it to be,” says Zerpa, citing 20 to 30 toppings and flavours to choose from (the most popular being cherry and blue raspberry). “Each shaved ice is as unique as the customers who walk through our doors.”

So whether you want to be a traditionalist with milky snow and injeolmi or matcha and red bean, or mix it up with a colourful array of syrups and fruity toppings, ditch your standard frigid snow cone this summer and try fluffy shaved ice instead.

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Kat Thompson is a senior staff writer of food & drink at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @katthompsonn.

Food and Drink

Why Makrut Lime Makes a Star Ingredient in Cocktails

The Southeast Asian citrus is intensely aromatic and pairs with rum, gin, tequila, and more.

Photo courtesy of Fish Cheeks
Photo courtesy of Fish Cheeks
Photo courtesy of Fish Cheeks

I grew up with a makrut lime tree in my backyard, admiring the double leaves and dimpled citrus fruit that frequently made their way into our family dinners. Makrut limes, which are sometimes referred to kaffir limes (although the term is controversial and has been widely retired), are native to Southeast Asia, but somehow my mom willed a tree to grow in our Southern California home with great success.

To me, makrut meant savoury Thai food: steamed fish curry wrapped in banana leaves and sprinkled with chiffonade makrut, simmering tom kha gai with floating bits of the hand-torn citrus leaves, and glistening green curry accentuated by the plant’s aroma.

But to others, makrut is an ideal ingredient in cocktails and other drinks. Such is the case for Fish Cheeks, a Thai restaurant in Manhattan known for its seafood dishes and eclectic, complementary cocktail menu. Beverage director Beau Fontano knew he had to include makrut in his creations, especially because the ingredient is so prominent on the food menu. Makrut lime finds its way in several drinks, most notably as a garnish atop the Thank You Kha, a riff on the acidic coconut stew tom kha gai, and the Manao Mao, a rum-based drink that uses makrut lime bitters.

“I don’t love using the word tiki, but if you think of those tiki rum cocktails, makrut definitely works well in those,” Fontano says. “But I also love it in martinis-there’s something really clean about it. And with makrut lime, if you’re just using the leaves, you can do a lot of rapid infusions.”

Fontano only uses the leaves, because the rinds and juice of makrut limes are famously bitter. “Regular lime has a little bit more sugar content, so that’s why it’s much more approachable in cocktails. Makrut limes tend to be more dry,” he explains. “But when you use the leaves in cocktails, you just smack it to wake it up a little bit and it gets that nice citrusy, refreshing aroma which is really fun.”

The leaves are cut fresh, so each drink has the scent of makrut lime leaves wafting off of them. “I’m sure at one point I will get around to it and try to figure out how to use the juice,” he laughs.

Further north at Paper Tiger in Portland, Maine, makrut lime leaves are also prevalent in a cocktail called Something Scandalous, a tequila-based drink intended to be, in the words of bartender Nick Reevy, “crushed easily.”

Paper Tiger
Paper Tiger
Paper Tiger

“I went with tequila, specifically, because in Maine it’s 80 degrees and humid pretty much all summer,” Reevy explains. “So I made something you kick back easily. Agave has a really nice softness that elevates the makrut lime, and the main flavour in that drink is the Thai basil.”

The drink is an alluring shade of green and is rounded out by cinnamon syrup and falernum. “Makrut lime is really herbal and bright in a way no other citrus is,” Reevy adds. “It’s interchangeable with other limes, but it just adds this whole other depth of flavour.”Makrut lime has even made its way into hard seltzer, albeit a limited edition drop from Lunar. Founder Kevin Wong knew he wanted to add another citrus drink to his rotation as he witnessed the successes of hard lemonades, but already had a yuzu iteration. Makrut lime seemed like a natural follow-up.

Photo courtesy of Lunar
Photo courtesy of Lunar
Photo courtesy of Lunar

“It has a very intense citrus fragrance, almost perfumey or soapy,” Wong ponders. “Like I could see Le Labo putting out a makrut lime fragrance. It has such a commanding presence and body.”

To tamper down some of the boldness of the makrut lime, the hard seltzer uses makrut lime leaf extract, lime juice, and cane sugar. The aromatics of the lime are present without too much bitterness; instead, the seltzer is grassy, acidic, and dry. Wong recommends pairing the can with spicy foods, especially Szechuan dry pot.

The makrut lime seltzer is currently sold out, and Wong is unsure whether or not another batch is in the works. “I feel like makrut lime is the greatest secret unknown to the Western world,” he says. “It’s in medicine, candy, herbal drinks, cosmetics and aromatherapy. I think we did the seltzer too early, and I don’t know if the world is ready for us to bring it back yet. Maybe in a couple of years.”

But judging by the growing popularity of makrut lime in beverage menus, the comeback might be sooner than he expects.

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Kat Thompson is a senior staff writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @katthompsonn.

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