As the spring temperatures rise and melt the snow, the warmth gives us a craving for icy treats that will help us beat the coming heat. Though snow cones are a simple combination of sugar and ice, there is a vibrant history behind the several varieties of shaved ice consumed around the world each year.
Below we are going to investigate the history and present of snow cones, also known as shave ice. Here is a short clip that shows shaved ice was even a popular treat for Americans within the home in the 1970s.
The Unique History of Shaved Ice
Today, shaved ice is a picturesque summer treat, but where did this treasure originate? It seems as though shave ice and shaved ice each have their own history and origin.
Hawaiian Shave Ice dates back to the days where sugar plantations were booming in Hawaii. These plantations needed workers and eventually thousands of Japanese immigrants came to Hawaii to work them. With them they brought this concept of a frozen delicacy that is now referred to as shave ice.
This concept dates back to the Japanese Heian period from 794 to 1185 A.D. Their process, as you can imagine, was much different than how we produce shave ice today. During that time, the ice was brought from mountains in the winter and was stored in freezing cold caves. Because of the demanding process, obtaining shave ice was a luxury, a treat only the most wealthy could afford.
The modern form of shave ice that we have today is believed to have been invented in a port town of, Japan in 1869. It began to skyrocket in popularity and by the 1920's shave ice was a typical item in stores throughout Japan. When Japanese plantation workers who migrated to Hawaii brought shave ice, they were able to have it as a refreshing break in the tropical climate. They would use their machetes to shave flakes from a large block of ice into cups and then poured fruit juices over the top.
In Hawaii today, snow cones are still called shave ice and are sold in cone-shaped paper cups. One of the most popular flavors in Hawaii is “rainbow” and is covered with three different syrups that resemble a rainbow. Another unique way Hawaiians enjoy this treat is with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or Azuki Beans that is first added to the bottom of the cup. Shave ice can now be found on all of the Hawaiian islands from coffee shops to local shops, at shave ice stands, lunch wagons, and often times at large public events.
Another unique twist you can add is a finishing layer of sweetened condensed milk to be poured over the ice after flavored syrups are poured. This adds a delicious creamy mix to the fruity treat!
Since we seem to think of shaved ice as a summer time favorite, it makes sense that shaved ice was revealed first time in America (or at least on the mainland), at the state fair. It was the at the 1919 State Fair of Texas where East Dallas resident Samuel Bert began selling the icy indulgences. Just one year later he patented his ice shaving machine, and by the 1950s his stand at the state fair was selling an estimated 1 million snow cones each year.
Unlike snow cones, which consist of crushed ice and a conservative pouring of syrup, shaved ice are made with shaved ice helping them maintain a fluffy, snowy powder like texture. Shaved ice are also doused with more syrup than traditional snow cones, that is quickly absorbed by the finely powdered ice.
New Orleans has been particularly influential on this brightly colored summer sweet. Though there are several snowball shops in the city, Hansen’s Sno-Bliz that was founded by the Ernest Hansen and his wife Mary has remained a staple of the industry within the Big Easy. Ernest patented the first known "ice block shaver” and Mary came up with the syrup recipes. They have remained in business since 1939 and today remain New Orleans’ favorite way to keep cool in those hot Louisiana summers.
Though New Orleans claims the title of snowball capitol of the United States but several other cities have their own claim to fame when it comes to their unique rendering of shaved ice. In Baltimore they became a popular concession treat at movie theaters and today it remains a Baltimore tradition to set apart their version of shaved ice by adding a signature dollop of marshmallow cream.
International Names of Shaved Ice
In Puerto Rico, and Puerto Rican neighborhoods abroad, shaved ice cones are referred to as "piragua", which means “pyramid of water” in Spanish. For the most part, you will see this treat served up from a street cart rather than an isolated kiosk. You will also find these carts in Puerto Rican neighborhoods in both New York and Philadelphia during the blazing months of summer.
Shaved ice is also common in Mexico abut are called raspados or raspas meaning "scraped ice”.
In the Dominican Republic snow cones are called "frío frío".
“Kachang” is the common name for shaved ice served in Malaysia and Singapore and sometimes is topped with fruits and other sweet toppings.
In Venezuela they are called Cepillados and are topped with condensed milk.
In India they are called ‘Juski’.
“Gola Gunda” is the common name for shaved ice in Pakistan.
As you can see, shave ice exists all over the world today and though it is known by a number of names, it seems to be love and celebrated no matter where you may find it!
A great option for Shaved Ice
If all of this talk about Shaved Ice has you craving your own personalized cone, One great choice is Kona Ice. They operate over 400 Shaved Ice trucks and exist in 41 states within the U.S. Kona Ice offers over 60 bold & delicious flavors that are both dairy-free and gluten-free. They also offer flavors that are sugar-free and dye-free!
Their trucks are totally unique in that they have a flavor station where you can mix and match and pour your own flavorings a top your large cup of shaved ice! In addition to the large trucks that you can request for you own private events or functions or make use of at public events, they also have a Kona Kart which is a mobile push cart that you can serve use for indoor events!
One great thing about this company is that they are so willing to give back to others. If you need to raise funds for a sports league, your school, your church, or for any other philanthropy, these guys are willing to donate a portion of the revenue straight to your organization!