I love that nytimes.com did this article. And it is fitting that I make it my 300th post, as my blog name is chamoyada.blogspot.com As you know, a chamoyada is a Mexican snow cone with fruit (tamarind, mango, strawberries, pineapple, etc), chamoy, asian peanuts, lime juice and serpentinas (tamarind candy). Go to Oasis Raspados and get yours today! Locations in Phoenix and Mesa. The Snow Cone Grows Up
By JULIA MOSKIN
Published: June 15, 2010
FIVE THOUSAND pounds of ice: as heavy as a young elephant, or five wading pools filled to the brim. Dylan Williams, the owner of Beaucoup Nola Juice in New Orleans, hauled it all in a refrigerated truck from New Orleans to Manchester, Tenn., last week, to supply his snow cone stand at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival.
Evan Sung for The New York Times
Chad Batka for The New York Times
He also had a pile of watermelons, jugs of mango and pineapple juice, and two SnoWizards, stainless-steel contraptions that produce the silky, fluffy ice shavings required for a true Louisiana “snoball.”
A snoball is to a snow cone as Warren Beatty is to Shirley MacLaine: closely related, but prettier, smoother and infinitely cooler. “In New Orleans, you can get killed if you call it a snow cone,” Mr. Williams said.
And no wonder — a snow cone is usually a mound of crunchy hailstones sitting in a pool of synthetic sugar syrup. The ice is crushed into pellets that send shivers up into the brain, and the flavoring has no chance of being absorbed into the ice.
But there is another way. A way of scraping ice so that it falls softly into cups like a January snowfall, and soaks up flavor the way dry ground soaks up rain in July. This is shaved ice, and it is a game-changer.
American food lovers, who seem to be re-examining every humble snack — beef jerky, pretzels, soft-serve — for artisanal potential, are now turning their attention to shaved ice. They are abandoning the Day-Glo aesthetic and fake flavors that they grew up with in favor of the true colors of summer fruit.
The new snow moguls draw inspiration from a whirling blizzard of these treats around the world: Hawaiian shave ice, Mexican raspados, Korean bingsu, Baltimore sky-blue “snowballs” topped with marshmallow, and Taiwanese bao bing flavored with palm sugar syrup. Indian golas and chuskis, sold by street vendors or gola wallahs, are flavored with rose, cardamom, orange and saffron. (A popular source is Saffron Spot, an Indian ice cream parlor in Artesia, Calif., south of Los Angeles.)
Most of them hail from places where summers are hot, and fruit plentiful: Latin America is packed with shaved ice treats, like Nicaraguan piraguas — named for their pyramid shape — Cuban granizados, and frío-frío (cold-cold) from the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.
“I’ve seen them in Cuba, I’ve seen them in Uzbekistan, I’ve seen them in Korea,” said Nathalie Jordi, an owner of People’s Pops in New York City, who makes shaved ice topped with organic and local fruit syrups. “It’s the simplest possible summer dessert.”
Fresher than Fresh is a snow cone start-up in Kansas City, Mo., owned by Lindsay Laricks, a graphic designer who grows many of the herbs for her blackberry-lavender and watermelon-basil syrups. Ms. Laricks sells her snow cones out of a 1957 Shasta trailer at local markets and art openings. “The trailer looks like a canned ham, but the snow cones are all natural,” she said. “I hope to completely reinvent the snow cone.”
At Pulino’s, an ambitious new pizza restaurant on the Lower East Side of New York, the pastry chef Jane Tseng freezes a purée of almonds, sugar and water, then sends it through the fine grating blade of her Robot Coupe R2N so that a light almond-flavored snow gathers in heaps. It tastes like essence of tortoni, sweetly fleeting.
Instead of having the creamy texture of a sherbet (which is churned like ice cream), or the crunch of crushed ice, or the large ice crystals of a granita, properly shaved ice is soft and snowy on the tongue, and disappears instantly when pressed against the palate. The technology for shaving ice runs from Ms. Jordi’s simple approach (a large block of ice and a shaver) to the complex (the Japanese-made Hatsuyuki HF500, priced about $1,500).
Shaved ice is a wonderful carrier for fruit flavor, skimming lightly across the taste buds, beautifully demonstrated by Ms. Jordi’s lemon-plum combination, or the dry apple-grape concocted by the chef Daniel Holzman of the Meatball Shop on the Lower East Side
Mr. Holzman is the proud owner of a Hatsuyuki, which devotees say earns its price by making perfect shaved ice from regular ice cubes. Most machines require specially shaped blocks that can take days to freeze. (A comparison of home ice shavers is below.)
The notion of “perfect” shaved ice — dry, light, with the slightest possible crunch — becomes clear from one’s first mouthful (“bite” would be too strong a word) of the bingsu at Koryodang, a Korean cafe in the trend-loving heart of Koreatown in Midtown Manhattan. The ice here is powder-soft; the house-made green tea “sauce” that’s poured over it is milky and lush, but with no heaviness.
This is the modern version of patbingsu (kakigori in Japanese), a traditional and basic treat of shaved ice with sweet bean paste. Popular in many parts of Asia, bingsu has morphed into huge, tottering sundaes like the ones at Koryodang and its neighbor, Ele Cafe. (Many Filipino sweet shops also make versions of this treat, called halo-halo.) Chunks of mango and strawberry, scoops of ice cream, whipped cream, toasted mochi, tapioca balls, Froot Loops, canned corn and every color of bean adorn the most over-the-top creations. For a more restrained version, the Excellent Pork Chop House in Manhattan’s Chinatown serves shaved ice with just a caramel sugar syrup, roasted peanuts and a drizzle of condensed milk.
But Mexico might win the global prize for best, or at least most, variations on shaved ice. As they do with juices (aguas frescas) and ice pops (paletas), Mexico’s cooks expertly wring all the flavor out of fruit in their raspados. Even a modest pushcart in a beach town may boast of its delicious treats with flavors like pineapple, coconut, quince, tamarind, mango with chili, apricot, rose petal and guava.
“It’s hard to imagine any place being more creative with ice and fruit,” said Fany Gerson, a pastry chef and author of the forthcoming “My Sweet Mexico” (Ten Speed Press). Ms. Gerson grew up in Mexico City, worked as a pastry chef in the United States and returned for a year and a half of research into the influences that shaped Mexico’s tradition of sweets: native fruits, Aztec kings, Spanish nuns and French chefs.
Apart from basic fruit raspados, she said, there are special treats like the challengingly sour chamoyada, which incorporates shaved ice and chamoys, a childhood treat of salted, sweet fruit spiked with chili powder found at candy stores all over Mexico.
“It just explodes in your mouth,” Ms. Gerson said. She is planning to serve a chamoyada when her new paleta business, La Newyorkina, finds a home as a full-fledged Mexican ice cream parlor.
Abraham Carlos, the Puebla-born chef at Cascabel Taqueria on the Upper East Side, was recently charged with inventing raspados that would reflect both the playfulness of the restaurant and the ambitions of its food. “We wanted them to be inventive and delicious, and also to be something you might add a shot of tequila to,” said David Chiong, one of the owners. The results are beguiling treats in a range of fruity, smoky and spicy flavors, topped with colored sugar, chocolate sprinkles and maraschino cherries. The Mexicano combines vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, anise and chocolate in a way that sounds unlikely yet works beautifully. (Although the Limon, with lime juice and pasilla chili powder, goes better with tequila.)
Mr. Williams, who decorated his stand at Bonnaroo with Mardi Gras beads, uses lightly sweetened fresh juices and eschews colorings on his snowballs, both radical breaks with New Orleans tradition. Like other local treats such as the po’ boy, the New Orleans snoball has qualities unique to that city. Mysterious flavors like “nectar,” “orchid” and “ice cream” predominate, and each flavor can be made in a cream version, so it is possible to order, say, a “cream of ice cream” snowball at institutions like Hansen’s Sno-Bliz, where the same ice-shaving machine has been in use since the 1930s, or at Plum Street Snoball, where the owners make their own condensed milk for drizzling on top.
“There’s always going to be a kid who gives his mom a hard time because I don’t have purple,” Mr. Williams said. “But people who care how things taste seem to like mine better.”
After last summer, Ms. Laricks and her blackberry-lavender snow cones already had enough of a following in Kansas City to inspire dreams of a snow cone empire. Like a number of new, small-scale entrepreneurs, she applied for funding at kickstarter.com, where anyone can pledge money to support a start-up business that sounds promising. Last week, ahead of schedule, Fresher than Fresh surpassed its goal of $6,000, pledged by 235 backers, most of them customers.
“I think people have very affectionate feelings toward snow cones,” said Ms. Laricks, who uses a Hawaiian-style shaving machine. “I know that what I’m making is actually shaved ice, but that sounded too snooty for Kansas City.”
Putting Home Ice Shavers to the Test
Commercial ice-shaving machines cost thousands of dollars, but some low-tech home versions have recently come onto the market, for about $25 to $35. The two simplest, the Back to Basics (also called the Hawaiice) and the Hamilton Beach Snowman, both work well, if noisily, with ice cubes. The mechanics of these are simple: a plastic cup filled with ice has a blade on the bottom. A motor spins the ice while you press down, forcing it over the blade. It takes about a minute to shave enough heaps of dry, fluffy snow for four snow cones.
The machines work even better with the provided ice molds, though that requires some planning. The molds can be filled with plain water, or with mixtures of water, fruit purées and syrups to produce flavored snow (try making café con leche ice, then topping the snow with chocolate syrup). I plan to put some favorite sorbet, granita and cold-soup mixtures through the shaver, as the texture is so lovely and the process so simple.
A more complicated Hamilton Beach device, the Icy Treats, can supposedly be used to mix frozen cocktails as well as for shaved ice, but in my experience it didn’t do a good job of either.