We must draw a distinction right now between the granular, neon-colored snow cones that the phrase “shaved ice” might call to mind and the only shaved ice worth talking about: an ethereally light drift of ice topped with fruit and a thick gloss of condensed milk.
I had no idea what I was saying yes to when, at the end of freshman year, I accepted a friend’s invite to get shaved ice in Chinatown. Twenty minutes later, I was introduced to my first-ever Taiwanese shaved ice (or baobing) with wide eyes: a mammoth bowl of milk-lustered fruit bedded on the finest ice I’ve ever seen, topped with a full-sized scoop of ice cream. It was a R.E.V.E.L.A.T.I.O.N.
I recently took Erik to try his first shaved ice at a newish little cafe, and he was an instant, enthusiastic convert (kind of like the first time he tried eggplant…I love it when he’s easy to please). I spent the last 10 minutes of our date night inspecting the sludgy dregs of our shaved ice with a plastic spoon and decided that it would make a great at-home project.
There are three important components to shaved ice:
- the ice texture: must be insanely fine and fluffy,
- the fruit: must be at the perfect peak of ripeness
- the milk: must be delicious, otherwise your dessert will just taste like fruit and ice.
To tackle the last component, I opted for full-fat coconut milk, cooked down until sweet and thickened instead of canned condensed milk. It’s not quite as thick and syrupy as the store-bought stuff, but it has a nuttier, earthier sweetness that feels suitable for a lighter, homemade treat. Skip the reduced-fat coconut milk as its often simply full-fat milk cut with water.
Although it’s not quite so hot that everyone everywhere is craving ice-based desserts, mangoes are gloriously, juicily, abundantly in season. Since they are hands-down my favorite shaved ice topping, I thought now would be an appropriate time to share this deliriously delicious at-home version. Plus, it’s relatively healthy. Ahem #bikiniseason (<– ew no.)
Unfortunately, the ice component requires an ice-shaving machine or high-powered blender if you really want to do this right. Using the “ice crush” setting on my Blendtec yielded extremely fluffy ice–just be sure not to overprocess it (or it will turn into a giant ice block) and use it right away, because it melts quickly.
I’ve read that some Asian vendors use “milk ice” to get a finer consistency–if you just have a decent-quality blender, you might try freezing some milk (any kind) in an ice cube tray and blending a combination of milk cubes and regular ice cubes. I’d love to hear how this goes if you try it.
You can of course get more elaborate with your toppings and add red beans, glutinous rice balls, peanuts, grass jelly, taro, sweetened bean pastes, etc. I typically just add fruit.
Vegan Taiwanese Shaved Ice
- For the coconut condensed milk:
- 1 can full-fat coconut milk
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar more to taste*
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- pinch of sea salt
- For serving:
- Chopped fruit mango, kiwi, strawberries, blueberries, watermelon, etc.
- Ice cream optional--fruit sorbets are popular, as are regular ice creams like green tea and salted caramel
- To make the coconut condensed milk:
- In a small, heavy-bottomed pot, whisk together the coconut milk and brown sugar. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to medium and simmer for about 20 minutes, uncovered, or until mixture has reduced by half. Remove from heat and let cool. Stir in vanilla and salt.
- To serve:
- In a high-powered blender or ice shaving machine, pulverize a few cups of ice until very finely ground (I used the “ice crush” setting on my Blendtec--be careful not to overprocess or the ice will start to clump together again. Stop when it reaches the texture of snow).
- Immediately add ice to a bowl, top with fruit and several spoonfuls of condensed milk. Add a scoop of ice cream if you like. Eat!
My Family Loved it. I am definitely sharing Guys, Thanks For sharing this Great Recipe. this recipe and this website with my friend. Hope they also love it. Thank you again for sharing such a great recipe.
hehe this recipe IS actually pretty healthy if you can go easy on the milk! Or your genius idea of making the milk ice — which would be amazing in iced coffee as well! Lately I’ve been buying syrups from http://www.realhawaiianice.com and they’re always really good, but you’ve inspired me to return to my asian roots! My mom always used condensed milk growing up, and yeah it’s hard to hold back on it!
well my dear, this is an amazing and ginormous creation you have made . . . quite lovely photo too. I think I can do this, it looks to be rather simple; I am going to try with coconut cream as I have it regularly shipped to me so always have cans on hand . . . we’ll see. Delish!
Aw thanks for stopping by, Sue! Glad you like the look of this–hope you love it if you get a chance to try it out! 🙂
I am from Taiwan, and this is a definately local summer / all year round.. dessart for us ! If you could find “Taro” you could try to use it and sweet potato .. steam them / mash / and add rice flour… then roll it into small ball / boil in hot water till float / then put it on top of the ice !!! Also just use raw sugar to slowcook the taro / sweet potato is also a popullar topping ~
Another crazy topping ..is red beans / green beens ! cook them till soft and add sugar / agave necter / honely ..then put on the ice !
Love your blog / and pancakes !
Ooh Michelle those all sound so awesome!!! Thanks for the tips–I’ll have to try them someday! Thanks so much for stopping by and for your sweet comment!!
susan @ the wimpy vegetarian
Wow! Erika your photos, especially the top one, is absolutely stunning!!!!!! I confess I’m not familiar with Taiwanese Shaved Ice – so thanks for the introduction 🙂 It looks wonderful!
Aww thanks so much Susan! YOU MUST TRY IT!! And I recommend trying the real thing somewhere first…it’s very hard to get the full experience at home. But I’m sure there’s gotta be some places close to you (well….maybe not in Tahoe…but in the Bay Area!) that have it! Summer is calling for shaved ice! 🙂
I can’t believe I didn’t comment on this yet!! Probably because I was too dumbstruck by how a-m-a-z-i-n-g it is that you made this at home, AND vegan. Now that I’m imagining this with coconut condensed milk I feel like I can’t have it any other way. It sounds soooo SO GOOD, lady. SO good. Love this, and the photos are just gorgeous <3
I’m famous! And these pictures turned out so so well!
I LOVE ICE.
<33333 my little urban outfitters model.
Courtney @ Neighborfood
What is this shaved ice topped with ice cream concoction you speak of and why has it never entered my life before this? I adore this idea and love that you condensed coconut milk! That sounds positively divine.
Hahaha thanks Courtney!! It really needs to enter your life soon–it’s so amazing! By the way–you are still my forever hero for posting your buttermilk pancake recipe. Still one of my favorite pancake recipes to date!
i cannot wait to try this recipe now that the weather is getting warmer
Okay, I swear I’ve left 15 billion comments on this post and not a single one has gone though so I’m assuming the cyber-deities don’t want me to make a fool of myself :p too bad, because I was drooling as I read this AND we were going to go for some awesome shaved snow (there’s a famous shop called blockheads right around the corner), but the line was too long. And then you tease me. This is such a love-hate moment for me….jk looks yummy!
Karen @ The Food Charlatan
Erika, WHY DO WE LIVE A THOUSAND MILES AWAY. seriously it’s like the gods are against our potential awesome foodie love affair. wth foodie gods.
If I could do double caps (caps that are twice the size of regular caps), then I would use them, but I don’t, so I’m not even going to try. Go big or go home.
Coconut. Condensed. Milk.
(Shipping out your caramels here pretty soon 🙂
Nora (A Clean Bake)
Oh my god. I’ve never seen anything quite like this, especially made at home and so simply. Thank you so much for showing me exactly what I was missing. And fuuuuurthermore, condensed coconut milk in place of sweetened condensed milk = brillz.
I have never tried shaved ice, but after reading this post, I really want to! This looks divine!
I love the look of these !! I think it is so cool how you have them in those little mini buckets !! What a fantastic idea !!
Victoria @ Alf & Emilio
Natasha @ The Cake Merchant
This looks perfect for a Texas summer! I love that you made your own condensed milk, and that it’s vegan. I’ve never tried shaved ice before, mostly because I was a little weary of bean/grass jelly toppings, but I could totally get on board with an all fruit version. Mango and coconut- yes, please! Also, I’m in love with your photos. Especially that first one. 🙂
Love shaved ice! That is so big here in Hong Kong and in so many Asian countries. Your photos are gorgeous. With the warm weather here this is a great dessert to enjoy.
I’ve heard of shaved ice before, but I’ve never actually had it! Which now seems kind of like a travesty. You make it look so good!
Such a super-gorgeous post! I don’t think I’ve ever been introduced to the wonders of shaved ice before but I’m pretty sure my life won’t be complete until I get to try it.
OMG!!! I love your photos. This recipe reminded me so much of Thailand because I had this kind of shaved ice over there last time I visited. This one that you made looks SO GOOD I might have to look for it at Chinatown this weekend 🙂
shikha @ Shikha la mode
OMG. I love shaved ice – I used to get it all the time in the boba places in San Mateo! So amaze that you made this – and it’s perfect for all the spring/summer fruit we’re getting in. When you’re back in town, let’s make this for our dinner party!
Kim @ Adventures In A New(ish) City
Omg Erika, I want to shove this down my throat now. Looks SO GOOD, and your pics are stunning by the way. 🙂
Haha thanks Kim! If your interest in shaved ice is piqued and you haven’t tried these already, you MUST go to Juicebox in Chinatown (the kahuna of shaved ice) and then try Snowblock Shavery in Rice village (good enough for a short-term fix). HEAVEN IN A BOWL.
The Zen Kat
So cool that you made this at home! I first tried shave ice in Hawaii and it was so good! I love your pictures too. So good!
Thanks Kat! Ooh I am def trying some shaved ice the next time I go to Hawaii 🙂
Katie (The Muffin Myth)
Oh wow. This totally reminds me of these shaved ice cups I was obsessed with on the beaches in Costa Rica. They’d shave ice off of this huge block and put some sort of syrup, powdered milk (seriously, this part makes it sooooo good), chopped fruit (from a can), and a drizzle of condensed milk over the whole thing. Sooooooo good. I’ve been meaning to recreate one for years but never got around to it, and honestly never considered that I could get such fluffy ice in my blender (duh). Another stunning recipe! Thanks Erika!
Um okay JEALOUS “on the beaches in Costa Rica”…omg that sounds so amazing that you got to watch them shave the ice right in front of you! I’m really curious about this syrup + powered milk business. I’ve heard some people add brown sugar syrup, but how exactly does the powdered milk work? I have powdered skim milk…do I just sprinkle it over? Does it stay dry and powdery or is it supposed to sort of melt into the ice and drizzled condensed milk? And it IS a little hard to get perfectly fluffy ice in your blender, but I mean…for an at-home fix, I think you can get pretty close 🙂 Thanks Katie!
Katie (The Muffin Myth)
Oh, I should be more clear. By ‘syrup’ I mean this sticky red stuff. Maybe cherry flavour? The powdered milk gets mixed in a bit as you eat and as the ice melts, and it makes it this creamy delicious thing, but I also really enjoy the powdery pockets you find along the way. Sooooo good. I really must make one of those some time soon!
Choc Chip Uru
I never even realised Taiwanese shaved ice existed honestly! But I am such a big fan of your delicious creation, don’t even mind which flavour 😀
It looks heavenly!
Choc Chip Uru
The Vegan 8
Erika, this looks SO beautiful and delicous…and EASY!! I just can’t get over how yummy that must be and I love the coconut cream. Would you believe I’ve never had shaved ice before? I love how sweet and healthy it is too. I love those adorable little buckets too!
Thanks Brandi! Omg YOU WOULD LOVE IT!!! It’s so healthy! (minus the condensed milk lol.) But if my health nut cousin loved this version, you would too! And the buckets are from Goodwill haha–the River Oaks location is a goldmine!
Nancy @ gottagetbaked
*bows down repeatedly* You, Erika, are a rock star for making this at home. I love Taiwanese shaved ice! I couldn’t believe the texture of the ice the first time I had it. Mango is definitely my favourite topping as well, along with a scoop of either mango or green tea ice cream. Yum! I love your idea of cooking down coconut milk instead of using cloyingly sweet condensed milk. This is awesome and your photos. Damn girl. So incredibly beautiful! I adore those little buckets you used.
Well d’awww thanks! I couldn’t believe it either–I was like, this is just ice and MILK?! Oh, the green tea ice cream…so good. I love it when it has little icy chunks in it. We need to eat some shaved ice together someday!
lynn @ the actor’s diet
I don’t know why I didn’t grow up with shaved ice. I felt so betrayed when my mom told me she ate it all the time when she was a kid.
As soon as I read this I was wondering how you planned to veganise the condensed milk! Great idea to reduce the coconut cream. I’ve actually made a vegan condensed milk using thick coconut cream and added coconut sugar before. It was absolutely DELICIOUS… I put a kaffir lime leaf into it as well which added some limey, sweet complexity. So good! I’d definitely recommend trying it for your Taiwanese shaved ice if you don’t mind a little extra sweetness! I know I’m going to, possibly tonight if my blender can hack it. Yum!! P.S that first picture is amazing xx
Ooooooh!!!! Laura, you are so brilliant! If I had coconut sugar on hand, I would def try that right away! And the lime leaf…oh my gosh I want to completely re-do this recipe. I might add that suggestion to the notes if you don’t mind 🙂
Thanks so much–hope you love it!! <3
What a sweet and healthy treat! Especially with all the fruit!
Michelle @ Hummingbird High
OMG. Oh my god. OMG. This looks amazing.