It’s not an Italian ice, it’s not a Hawaiian shaved ice and it’s definitely not a sno-cone. Shaved snow is made from giant blocks of flavored frozen milky ice, heaved onto a rotating spit and shaved into gossamer-thin layers. The end product looks almost like frozen cotton candy; the soft ribbons are both creamy and icy, with a lightness that is ideal in steamy weather. Covered with all sorts of sweet toppings, it makes for a summer treat that will cool you down without weighing you down.
Bigger cities have been touting shaved snow as the next dessert trend – on a level with frozen yogurt or cupcakes – for the last few years, with purveyors like Snow and Tell and Flurries popping up. In Orlando, it’s still centered in the Asian communities, but luckily, we’re rich in Asian restaurants. Here are a few places that will shave you some:
Bubbles & Ice
813 N. Mills Ave., 407-895-8833, noodlesandricecafe.com
Shaved snow fits right into their mostly-chilly dessert list, and this is the only spot we know of that flavors and freezes their own ice blocks instead of buying from a distributor. (Bonus: They use soymilk, so their shaved snow is vegan.) Green tea, red bean and honeydew round out a list of almost a dozen flavors, with jellies and popping pearls on the toppings bar.
5565 W. Irlo Bronson Highway, Kissimmee; 407-507-3826
It’s kind of far out there, but this is the place to get traditional Filipino halo-halo – shaved snow topped with sweet corn, sweet red beans, coconut, and tropical fruits like jackfruit, plantains or sweet potato.
Hanamizuki Japanese Restaurant
8255 International Drive; 407-363-7200, hanamizuki.us
After an epic bowl of ramen, a savory chawanmushi custard or an endless omakase at the sushi bar, the green tea shaved snow is a refreshing finale. Top yours with red beans, sweetened condensed milk and mochi.
6437 S. Chickasaw Trail, 407-704-8966, facebook.com/chibis.boba
The Lee Vista gamers’ hangout boasts just three rotating flavors – like honeydew, vanilla and taro – but it’s a sweet spot to chill with some condensed-milk-topped ice while you catch some Sailor Moon and scope their displays of manga-inspired art.
3402 Technological Ave., 407-203-6963, facebook.com/snoteadesserts
The list of flavors leans tropical: pina colada, mango and honeydew snows rule, but the “original” sweet milk flavor is truly singular. And their toppings are tops, with options like Cap’n Crunch cereal and mango-flavored mochi. We hear they're changing their name to Ice & Bites soon, but shaved snow will stay on the menu.
Top your treat: Sugar experiments and authentic add-ons
The toppings bar might look like a mad scientist’s lab. To make choosing your add-ons easier, here’s a breakdown of all those sugary trappings.
The sweet little beans are a traditionally Japanese topping, made from adzuki beans that are boiled with sugar and then sweetened further with honey or sugar syrup: the perfect gooey, sticky, starchy addition to your snow.
A molecular gastronomist’s wet dream (bad word choice, maybe) – also called “bursting boba.” A thin membrane covers syrupy, artificially flavored liquid that explodes in your mouth like giant fruity caviar. You’ll find flavors like lychee, strawberry and mango around town.
Filipino halo-halo often features cubes of fruit-flavored gelatin on top, but some shaved snow spots also include the multi-colored translucent fruit (or coffee) gels as choices on their topping bars.
If you love marshmallows, pile on the mochi: glutinous rice pounded into a paste, sweetened and shaped, then cut into shapes and dusted with powdered sugar to avoid clumping (just like marshmallows!). Look for mango, lychee, red bean or green tea flavored mochi.
Sweetened condensed milk
It’s the same stuff you’d use to make pumpkin pie, and that the coffee illuminati use to avoid sugar crystals in their iced java (seriously, genius trick). On shaved snow, it’s a necessity. Viscous, sweet, creamy and rich – it’s everything a dessert sauce should be.