Monday, August 03, 2009

The Best Shave Ice?

Okay...my longtime friend Doug Sakurai asked me to mention a particular shave ice stand. So it's time to run down the best shave ice places on Oahu.

Shave Ice (yes, grammar mavens, I am aware that in proper standard English, I should use the adjective "shaved," but if you're complaining, you don't live in Hawaii, and you probably have never had shave ice) is the perfect treat for the warm weather in Hawaii. It probably came to Hawaii courtesy of Japanese immigrants, who likely brought over the practice of shaving ice with sweetened azuki beans. This evolved to flavored syrups, with azuki beans, ice cream, mochi balls, and taro chunks added to the bottom of the cone. Shave ice is often topped with condensed milk, snowcap (a sweet creamy topping), or even li hing mui (a tart/spicy powder).

The quality of shave ice is mostly in the fineness of the ice shavings. The crunchy, coarse kind is favored by some, but it's not for me...you might as well have a sno cone (which just doesn't compare). Flavors help some, but is not the deal maker.

President Obama stopped by Island Snow in Kailua (Kailua Road near the beach) for shave ice. I would rate Island Snow as making a solid, good quality shave ice cone: pretty fine texture, and pretty good flavors.

Matsumoto's in Haleiwa is the best known shave ice place in Hawaii, and I have to admit they probably have the best tasting flavors, but I find the ice to be the coarser, crunchy kind. Baldwin's Sweet Shop is kind of like that as well. I've been told that Aoki's and H. Miura's are in that category.

Tat's Shave Ice truck is really great - good, fine ice texture - but I don't know where he is anymore, since I rarely see his truck parked at the Kokokahi YWCA in Kaneohe. He should be on Twitter. His vanilla ice cream is probably the best: he uses real vanilla beans in his ice cream.

Shimazu's is without a doubt the biggest shave ice ever as well as being one of the best. The "Big Larry" is as big your head, if you have a big head! The ice texture is very good and the flavors are as well. Shimazu's is hard to find and it's harder to find parking: it's at 330 School Street near the H-1 onramp Ewa bound near Liliha Street. If you've never been there, you should endure the endless search for parking and the long line at least once.

But I still have to say that the best shave ice on Oahu is at the Waiola Store, 2135 Waiola Ave (near King and McCully) and another location on Kapahulu Street near Waikiki. Hands down the best ice texture...I don't know how they do it...so soft that it's almost like pudding. They have ice cream, azuki beans, mochi balls, snowcap, li hing powder, condensed milk, the works. They also have a traditional Japanese style azuki bowl. To be honest, I think that some other places have better tasting flavors, but that is trumped by the otherworldly ice texture.

Grace and aloha,

Tom

P. S. My friend Doug always teases me about a sermon I delivered when I was a student pastor at Christ UMC in Honolulu over a quarter century ago. He and his friends were visiting and we went to Waiola Store for shave ice several times. When he and his friends came to church, I decided, on a whim, to shoe horn an illustration in the sermon and said "God is not like shave ice." They all thought it was the worst sermon they had ever heard.

P. P. S. Many years later: our church has been making shave ice for a decade to benefit the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life. We're at the annual Kailua Fourth of July parade and other events. We are proud and blessed to have been able to raise thousands of dollars to benefit the effort to battle cancer....with shave ice. Something as innocuous as shave ice has been used to be a blessing in surprising ways.

2 comments:

steveandalisha said...

We totally agree, hands down, the best shave ice on the island is at Waiola Store! The best ice texture and flavor!

Pastor Tom Choi said...

Thanks, Alisha...and thanks for the privilege of dedicating Ari!