Baby, it's hot outside. Real hot.
We're officially in the middle of summer and the time is now to splurge on half your body weight's worth of ice cream, shaved ice, gelato, frozen yogurt, granita, Slurpees, or whatever, as long as it's frozen and sugary. That freezer-burned rubbery nub of Cherry Garcia in the darkest corner of your freezer never tasted so damn good in your life.
But shaved ice and ice cream had better watch their backs, because there is a new guy in town—from Taiwan.
Meet snow ice, the beautiful, undiscovered lovechild that ice cream and shaved ice had around 65 years ago in the streets of Taiwan. It first arrived in the US in 2011, when Evan Lew of LA-based Blockheads Shavery got really tired of flying halfway around the world just to enjoy a bowl. While there were a few random boba shops in town that were already serving it, he is the one who many credit with importing the concept.
"I first had it at a night market in Taiwan around five years ago, and as soon I had it I knew it would be a hit in the US," Lew says. "We call ours 'snow cream' because we modified it to be a little more creamier than the traditional Taiwanese version." Of course, he also developed a non-dairy version to cater to LA's persnickety vegan community, something that you would never find in Taipei.
Its stunningly fluffy ribbon-like texture is caused by a couple of different factors, including the shape of the razorblades in the machines and the "special way" of freezing the chunk of naturally flavored 2-percent milk used to make the frozen dessert. Also, because it doesn't have to be scoopable, there aren't any gummy stabilizers used in this frozen dessert. Lew didn't want to comment on that last step, but who can blame him? He has inspired a handful of imitators in town in just four years of business. Unsurprisingly, none have come even close to replicating Blockheads' astonishingly jagged edges.
Flavor-wise, Blockheads offers floral offerings like taro, black sesame, coconut, Thai iced tea, and green tea—my personal favorite. For you weird flavor enthusiasts, there have been some experimental flavors up on Blockhead's blackboard too, like coconut curry and avocado coconut. This is an Asian dessert after all, so you can also count on those little bits of sliced mochi that you secretly obsess over, and as much sweetened condensed milk as your fragile little pancreas can handle.
Lew doesn't have any immediate plans to expand outside of California right now, but don't be surprised if another imitator pops up in your neighborhood. But if it doesn't look like an edible version of Picasso's portrait of Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, you should probably opt for some ice cream instead.