Lots of you know I kind of collect unique kitchen appliances. I’ve shared lots of them in my Instagram feed and mentioned them here and there and people are constantly sending emails and messages with questions so I thought it would be fun to start a series to share some of my favorites! These are all things that I’ve purchased myself, not sponsored things I’m trying to sell you or anything. I think it always helps to get honest reviews so I’m excited to show you some things that my family owns and LOVES. Since the temps are rising in most places, it seemed only natural to start with one of our summer favorites: Hawaiian Shave Ice.
Now. I’ve learned over the course of almost 10 years to never, ever claim to make anything “authentic” to a certain culture, or the internet will freak out on you. But let’s talk about authentic Shave Ice. For starters, if you want to sound legit- say “Shave Ice” and not “Shaved Ice!” The difference between a snow cone and shave ice is that snow cones are finely crushed ice and shave ice is shaved across a sharp blade creating a smooth, melt-in-your mouth velvety snow kind of texture.
If you’ve ever been to Hawaii, Shave ice stands are everywhere. (The photo above is from the famed Matsumotos on Oahu) They pile up scoops of cool, frosty snow and pour flavored syrups over the top. The crowning glory comes from a drizzle of sweetened condensed milk poured over the top, commonly known as a “snow cap”and you can include a scoop of ice cream on the bottom if you wish (and I always wish). On the islands you’ll often find tropical flavors like macadamia nut, coconut, and pineapple ice cream, along with the standard vanilla. Sounds weird if you’ve never had it, but if you have had it, you know what I’m talking about. Let’s review: Creamy ice cream, fluffy snow, fruity syrup, sweet milk. It’s the bomb.
Our family has been to the island several times and we have a deep love affair with shave ice! We’ve had some little starter machines over the years (this is a fun, inexpensive table top version) and were ready for an upgrade to feed the masses.
There are some super nice, and incredibly expensive options available that will run into the thousands of dollars! We bought one on the lower end of the nice commercial ones and have been really happy with it. It’s the Great Northern Commercial Ice Shaver and at under $250 and almost 300 nearly 5-star reviews, it’s a good buy for a commercial-level machine. You can find it by clicking here. It’s super heavy, and really well made. We’ve had ours for about 3 years and have used it lots and have had zero issues with it.
Guys, we love this thing. We freeze water in cheap, round, plastic containers. Some machines recommend ice blocks for shaving, but we found that smaller, round blocks had the best results for us. We experimented with some different containers until we found the size that worked best and then I bought a bunch at Walmart so we can stock lots of ice blocks before parties.
The ice will shave best if it sits to “sweat” for a few minutes before shaving, so we keep a cooler close by and load it up so we can crank them out constantly. When we set up a party table, we do it something like this (this was from a family party we had a while back)
I love making a menu of flavors for people to pick from. Our kids’ friends love this and we often do it for summer birthdays instead of cake!
For the flavors, sometimes I make my own syrups, which just involves making simple syrup (sugar + water) and then adding concentrated flavor. There are tons of places online to buy fun and unique flavors. You can also buy large jugs of prepared flavor syrups at restaurant supply stores. I’ve also just used Torani (and similar) syrups, which aren’t quite as thick as the sugar syrups, but still taste really great.
For the sweetened condensed milk, I put it in squeeze bottles like these for easy drizzling.
So to make your own shave ice, you will need an ice shaver- but remember if you aren’t interested in investing in the big momma one, there are fun inexpensive ones available, too! Scoop a big scoop of vanilla ice cream into a cup and pile snow on top. Pour flavored syrup over the top generously and then drizzle with some sweetened condensed milk. That’s it! I also make a low-calorie version by using frozen yogurt or high protein ice cream and sugar free Torani syrup.
This is one of our family’s favorite foodie traditions, and I hope it can become the same for some of you! Let me know if you have any questions or would like a video or something. I’d be happy to share!
AND, if you’re now craving some tropical eats, make sure to check out our Tropically-themed recipe index where you’ll find all kinds of Hawaiian-inspired eats. Click here!