Shaved ice as a dessert goes back 1,000 years in Japan and was in fact brought to Hawaii by Japanese craftsmen. While every culture has its own take on the combination, Hawaiian shaved ice is distinct for its fine-grated texture and often features syrups specially formulated for this texture.

What You’ll Need

To make Hawaiian shaved ice you will need a blender or an electric ice shaver, ice, flavored syrup–popular flavors include watermelon, strawberry, lime, pina colada and pineapple–a cup and a spoon. You can purchase flavored syrups from online distributors such as Prairie Moon (see Resources). Prices for an electric shaver start at about $35.

Shaved Ice Recipe

To get the ice to the right consistency for Hawaiian shaved ice, put two cups of regular ice in the blender and crush into small pieces. Depending on the capacity of your blender, you may need to crush several batches if you are serving shaved ice to several people. You should ideally have ice shards the size of breadcrumbs, or as small as you can get them.

If using an electric shaver, process ice in the electric shaving compartment as directed by the machine’s instruction manual.

Pour the ice into a cup or glass and top with one to two shot glasses of syrup, depending on personal preference. Now you have Hawaiian shaved ice. For a fun change, try creamy-style shaved ice by combining 7 ounces of evaporated or condensed milk with 1 ounce of flavored syrup, then pouring one to two shots of the cream syrup over your shaved ice. Leftover cream syrup will keep, refrigerated, for up to five days.

About Real Hawaiian Shaved Ice

Hawaiian shaved ice is distinct because the syrups do not sink to the bottom of the cup but remain suspended in the ice particles. Traditionally, red azuki beans are added to the bottom of a cup of shaved ice–or “shave ice” as the locals call it–but these days you may find ice cream lurking at the bottom of your cup. Hawaiian shaved ice is typically served with a straw and a spoon. Popular flavor choices can include tropical fruits like lilikoi or papaya, with a rainbow (of cherry, orange and blue vanilla) a frequent choice of children.