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Taiwanese shaved ice a treat for all seasons

Mid-Autumn specialties, seasonal menus of world-renowned dessert delight taste buds all year round

Taiwanese shaved ice was listed by CNN as one of the top 50 desserts in the world. 

Taiwanese shaved ice was listed by CNN as one of the top 50 desserts in the world.  (Taiwan News photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan’s shaved ice is among the world's top desserts and has become available all year long, with new creative flavors made with fresh seasonal ingredients.

Taiwan News went to three shaved ice shops to see the different flavors offered at each place.

Jingjimoo (金雞母), a popular spot on Taipei's Yongkang Street, has come up with a Mid-Autumn specialty to welcome fall. The ice is flavored with mashed plums and pomelos, giving it a purple appearance. This is a reference to the dress of Chang'e, the heroine of the Moon Festival legend.

Meanwhile, the candied lemon placed on top symbolizes the full moon. The ice has a sweet, citrusy taste, which is enhanced by dried strawberries and a layer of blueberry cream.

"We design different flavors of shaved ice according to the season and festival," Jingjimoo Manager Chih-ying told Taiwan News. For spring, they make shaved ice out of roses sourced from Pingtung. Mango and lemon are the usual flavors for summer and fall, respectively, while the shop uses strawberries and cream in the winter for a strong, rich taste.

Taiwanese shaved ice a treat for all seasons
Mango shaved ice. (Taiwan News photo)

Shaved ice with mangoes is Taiwan's best-known combination. The country is often referred to as the world's "tropical fruit king," with an annual output of more than 170,000 tons.

After chunks of mango are scattered on the ice is shaved into a bowl, condensed milk is then poured over the whole dish. Mango ice cream and mango sherbet are also typically added.

Shaved ice shops like Smoothie House(思慕昔) are well-known for this mango creation. Their mango snowflake ice has seen record-breaking sales — enough to reach the height of Taipei 101 if they were piled up.

The snowflake ice is smooth and melts in the mouth right away, according to one Smoothie House customer. Fresh food is always a plus for the dessert, she added.

Taiwanese shaved ice a treat for all seasons
Traditional shaved ice (Taiwan News photo)

Though there are now shaved ice treats for all seasons, traditional shaved ice will never fade away. Dad's Taro Balls (阿爸の芋圓) has the most traditional flavors, offering toppings like red beans, peanuts, boba, and taro. Their signature dish has mashed taro, taro balls, and rice cakes.

The store has also been busy innovating the traditional dessert. It currently has one made of frozen sugar cane juice that is shaved into the shape of sugar cane slivers.

"It makes the ice sweeter and rich in fiber," said the shop owner Yen Hsiao-Chuan (顏孝全). The freshly cooked toppings pair perfectly with the shaved sugar cane ice, satisfying any sweet tooth.

Dad's Taro Balls was founded when a father tried to cook his daughters fresh, healthy desserts. He used sugar cane from southern Taiwan and taro from Taitung to make the signature shaved ice, said Yen.

Mixing innovation with tradition is one of the reasons why Taiwan's shaved ice has been popular for so long. Turning it into year-long treats is just another step in the evolution of this popular and refreshing dessert.