When in Hawaii, be sure to try Hawaiian ice dessert, known locally as da Kine, "SHAVE ICE." Despite being made from shaved ice flakes, it is called "shave ice" by dropping the "D" on the end.

Shave Ice is made from fine ice shavings with a texture similar to snowflakes. It should not be confused with a snow cone, which is made from crushed ice. The fine texture of shave ice allows it to absorb and retain flavoring syrups, unlike crushed ice.

You don't need a straw for syrup that may run to the bottom of the cone. A spoon captures the flavors in the ice flakes just fine. Shave ice and snow cones differ in texture. Shave ice has a smooth, creamy texture, while snow cones with crushed ice cannot hold the flavored syrup as it runs down to the bottom of the cone.

Where did Hawaiian Shave Ice come from?

To get straight to the point, shaved ice was brought to Hawaii by Japanese immigrants and has its origins in Japan, where it is used to make a dessert called Kakigōri dating back to the Heian Period (794-1185 A.C.E).

Kakigori, a traditional Japanese dessert, became popular worldwide after plantation workers brought it with them. They used family heirloom swords to shave large blocks of ice into fine snow.

Japanese Kakigori also influenced these desserts in other countries. Korean Patbingsu, Taiwan Baobing, Philippines Halo Halo, Malaysia Ais Kacang, and of course, Hawaiian Shave Ice. Think about it, back in those days, in the hot climate areas, when ice was introduced, how would they know how to create shaved ice desserts?
The Japanese migrant workers showed them how to do it.
Japanese Kakigori
Korean Patbingsu
Taiwan Baobing
Philippines Halo Halo
Malaysia Ais Kacang
One of the most famous places to get real Hawaiian Shave ice is at a place called Matsumoto's in Hale'iwa North Shore, Oahu Hawaii. That place is so famous that theres always a line that stretches out to the parking lot.

Last time I was there I was curious to see what kind of machine they use to create shave ice. Since their so famous for their Shave Ice the machine they use must be one of the best. I found it online as a product of the Weivo Machinery company. So if I was ever to get into the Shave Ice business this would be the first place I'd get an ice shaver machine.
Matsumoto's official video
Inside a real Hawaiian Shave Ice

Hawaiian shave ice is traditionally served in a conical paper or plastic cup with first a scoop of vanilla ice cream and some azuki bean paste on top of the ice cream. Then you add the finely shavened ice and pour multiple flavored syrups to taste. On top you add a Snow Cap which is sweetened condensed milk drizzled on top.
Snow Cap

Sweetened condensed milk drizzled over the top is called a "snow cap."

Besides traditional American flavors that are common like grape, cherry, watermelon, strawberry, lemon-lime, and rasberry, shave ice in Hawai'i is often flavored with local flavors like guavapineapplecoconutpassion fruitlychee, kiwi fruitmango, and li hing mui.
Azuki Beans

This is a Japanese sweet bean paste. I love this stuff! It's the same kind of beans used to make manju another Japanese treat I love and grew up with in the Silicon Valley's San Jose Japantown.
Ice Cream

Traditionally vanilla ice cream is good enough cause all the other flavors from the shave ice will blend in so vanilla is a good neutral flavor that won't compete with the other tastes.

Well, I gather from everything I've researched here that the Japanese were instrumental in developing the much-loved shave ice desserts to the rest of the world that otherwise would have never thought of using shave ice as a dessert. The Philippines, Malaysia, and Hawaii are obviously tropical climate regions where the possibility of creating such a treat during the aforementioned Heian period of classical Japan probably would not have happened. So I'm going to go out on a limb here and affirm that the Japanese ARE the main source of all these shave iced treats. Not to be mistaken for crushed ice treats from other parts of the world.

The beauty of it all is how each region creatively concocted its own version of the Japanese Kakigori dessert by adding local ingredients unique to the region. I could only imagine how delicious ingredients would be from other parts of the world to come up with their own version of shave ice. Places like South America, Central America, the African continent, and Europe would be interesting to see what regional goodies they would add to create shave ice. Bless the Japanese for their shave-ice culinary innovation and may there be continued creativity of more shave-ice desserts to come. :-)


Ambeth R. Ocampo (2012, August 30). Japanese origins of the Philippine ‘halo-halo’      
Retrieved March 30, 2014, from  website:  http://opinion.inquirer.net/35790/japanese-origins-of-the-philippine-halo-halo

Wikipedia (2014) Shave Ice
Retrieved March 30, 2014, from website: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shave_ice

Wikipedia (2014) Kakigori
Retrieved March 30, 2014, from website: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kakigori