The ladies and gents of the Web Team crowded around my desk area as soon as I uploaded the above photo into Photoshop. Jason Heid thought it looked like “rotten mashed potatoes.” Liz Johnstone called it “caviar.” Best of all, ShopTalk Editor Raya Ramsey dubbed it “old lady food.”
No, my good people. This here is shaved ice with a large helping of pudding, red beans, and ai yu jelly from Tapioca House in Chinatown. Shaved ice, a popular dessert in East Asia that we eat in the summertime, is just crushed ice with syrups (like condensed milk), fruit toppings, and other random Asian junk with weird textures we like that other people don’t (mochi, jellies, pudding, you name it.) You can put anything you want on it, and usually you select from a multitude of toppings for your favorite shaved ice mixture. It’s extremely important to pick strong combos so when the ice melts, you still have this tasty goodness at the bottom of your bowl to slurp up.
Jump for ice.
There aren’t many places in Dallas to get shaved ice, and to be honest, I haven’t found a place here that can match the desserts from Star Snow Ice in Houston’s Chinatown. (Which explains why these photos stink so much, Liz-Johnstone-who-is-giving-me-crap-for-them.) But your best bet for trying shaved ice is in our own little Richardson Chinatown along Greenville Avenue. Tapioca House, which sits at the left corner of the plaza, serves bowls of shaved ice that are bigger than a football player’s head. There’s a little sign in Chinese on the wall that says you can choose three toppings (from pudding, jelly, red bean, tapioca grass jelly, and ai yu jelly) for a total of $2.75. If you don’t read Chinese, you’d probably never realize Tapioca House sells anything other than bubble tea, but now that you know that it also sells shaved ice, stand confidently in front of the cashier and order like a pro. Make sure you go with a friend; you’ll never be able to finish it by yourself.
A few doors down from Tapioca House is May’s Ice Cream, which is actually a better place to get shaved ice. (Its name probably makes that obvious.) May’s offers four toppings for a $3 bowl of shaved ice, or you can get yours packed to-go in a 32 oz. foam container. The ice here is fluffier, feathery, and not at all like the crunchy shaved ice you’d find in snow cones. This kind of ice melts on your tongue instantly like snowflakes and cotton candy. Choose from 19 different toppings like taro pudding, almond pudding, grass jelly, mochi, and fruit jelly at May’s. There’s also this sweet rice grain (yi ren), peanuts, and mung bean you can add to your bowl. The woman who works behind the counter doesn’t speak English too well, but if you point and grunt, she’ll get what you mean and pour this condensed milk mixture into your shaved ice until your bowl is flowing with milk and sweetness.
Tips on choosing toppings for a good bowl of shaved ice: I like mine with something sweet (like red bean), something chewy (hence the kiddie colored fruit jelly), something mushy (grass jelly), and something grainy (yi ren). If you diversify your toppings, you’ll enjoy every last bite even when the ice is melted and your mixture is drowning in a bowl of watery soup.