When it gets hot in the Bay Area with warmth reminiscent of my Hawaiian childhood, my first thought goes to shaved ice (not ice cream).
If you’ve been to Hawaii, you know shaved ice is that simple, colorful treat of shaved ice with syrup for flavor. It’s grown over the years to include things like ice cream and mochi balls.
In the Bay Area, it’s not easy to find Hawaiian-style shaved ice. But there’s a boom lately of what’s known as “shaved snow” that’s extremely popular in Taiwan and other parts of Southeast Asia. Last week, my friend Vera had a hankering for shaved snow so we went to check out the new Ice Monster in Walnut Creek.
Ice Monster is actually originally from the Philippines, and the Walnut Creek location in the Nob Hill strip mall is its first U.S. location, serving up ice creations and flavored tea drinks. They only have one size for their shaved snow, a huge bowl that’s easily shared. (There was a kid’s size but we were afraid to order that.) There are eight flavored ice starting at $7.50 a bowl, which includes the choice of one topping and one syrup.
Shaved snow is finer in texture than Hawaiian shaved ice. It’s so fine that when taken as a whole, it almost has a creamy texture that reminds you of ice cream. But since this is ice, this is probably easier for those who are lactose-intolerant.
Since there were three of us, we ventured into two bowls, starting with a green tea with bubbies (those are the pearls with liquid inside that pops in your mouth) and mochi balls, and then a second bowl of taro flavored ice with red azuki beans and grass jelly. Very Asian choices. We added sweetened condensed milk on each one.
I liked the green tea flavor, but the taro flavor didn’t remind me of taro. It was just sweet, maybe too sweet. Ice Monster also sells Dreyer’s ice cream and flavored tea drinks.
While I still favor the Hawaiian shaved ice for its refreshing ice crystals, these Taiwan-style shaved snow can hit the spot during our Bay Area heat spell.
The deets: Ice Monster, 2230 Oak Grove Road, Walnut Creek. Open daily from noon to 10 p.m.
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