This was what convinced my 3-year-old-toddler to join me this summer in 90 degree weather & (what feels like) 100% humidity Taiwan. Yes, "this" being the Mango Shaved Ice pictured above.
When I was asked to share some of the best Taiwanese foods that make me want some tea, this classic Asian summer-must-have is what came to mind. Along with a nice cup of refreshing iced or cold brewed Black Mango Tea. Refreshing is the key here as the **excruciating** heat dissipates almost immediately with a bite of the shaved ice and a sip of iced tea, both exuding the sweet nectar fragrance of mango. Before the days of air conditioning, this was air conditioning.
What is Shaved Ice?
Shaved ice, also known as Bao Bing ( 刨冰), is common in many Asian countries, including Taiwan, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, as well as the US islands of Hawaii. Ice is "shaved" traditionally either using a large mallet to crush the ice into small pieces, a blade to shave off the ice, or a hand cranked machine to do the same. My toddler has one like the below for her shaved ice creations at home. She puts a block of ice inside the bear's head, hand cranks the handle above the bear's hat, and out comes (sometimes not so) finely shaved ice that she catches with a bowl below the bear's head.
Modern versions use high tech machines that create much finer, thinner shaved ice. The ice itself may sometimes include milk or cream to create a creamier texture, known as Snow Ice, sometimes described as frozen cotton candy.
The "Necessity": Topping
But what makes Mango Shaved Ice so spectacular is what goes on top of the shaved ice: the magnificent pile upon pile of freshly cut Taiwanese mangoes that are delicately sweet to the bite, amazingly smooth in texture, and ridiculously juicy. The combination of 1) fresh-off-the-trees-mangos grown in the tropics + 2) melt-in-your-mouth shaved ice, all mixed up with condensed milk and fresh mango juice poured over the shaved ice ice, is what makes one unable to just have one bite of this summer companion.
Thank you, Mango Shaved Ice, for making the hot summer days enjoyable and filled with fun memories.