If you want to try a sweet, refreshing treat in Hawaii, shave ice is an island staple enjoyed across the state at stands and restaurants alike. Learn more about its history to better appreciate this dessert.
Shave ice originated in Japan. Sugar plantation workers in Okinawa made a dessert called kakigori as early as the Heian Period around 794 AD. The ice was flavored with fruits and syrup.
When the workers moved to Hawaii in the early 1900s, they brought this tradition. Some innovative chefs created shave ice stands to give immigrant plantation workers a taste from home.
While snow cones are a close relative to this treat, they feature larger crushed ice pieces, which doesn’t hold syrup as well. Shave ice comprises thin, soft flakes that soak up flavors and can be compacted more easily to retain its round shape. You can enjoy the smooth, frozen treat with a spoon and straw.
Today, you’ll find a myriad of syrup flavors, ranging from locally grown fruits like lilikoi, banana, and mango to more mainstream flavors like vanilla, cola, and lemonade.
You can also opt for toppings. Mochi balls and azuki bean paste are popular choices that hail from shave ice’s Japanese origins. Boba, small tapioca balls, are more often seen in milk tea, though they’re just as delightfully chewy atop shave ice. Or add condensed milk or ice cream for a creamy finish.
There are even adult versions served with alcohols like rum, tequila, sake, or soju. Alcoholic shave ice can be customized to resemble cocktails like the piña colada or mai tai.
If you’re interested in trying refreshing alcoholic shave ice and delicious Hawaiian food, head to Kawailoa Tavern on the North Shore of Oahu. The restaurant is within walking distance of Ali’i Beach park and offers multicultural dishes from Korea, Hawaii, and the South. Call the Haleiwa restaurant at (808) 744-3754 to find out more about their shave ice and other menu offerings.