It’s the most delicious thing on the whole dang planet!
It’s not a snow cone!
It’s a soft sweet mouthful of awesome bursting with yumminess!
But, more seriously, here’s the history of Shave Ice (NOT shaved ice).
Shave ice traces its history back to the Heian period (794-1185) of Japan, when the serfs would shave ice blocks with swords and cover the resulting snow with fruit and milk. Because ice was rare and had to be obtained from high mountains, the shave ice would only be enjoyed by the ruling class.
Shave ice was brought to Hawaii by the Japanese who migrated there to work in the sugar cane plantations and pineapple fields. The workers would take a block of ice and shave it as if planing a block of wood (but using a machete), then pour different flavored juices or syrups on them. It provided a refreshing break in the hot, tropical climate. Originally, shave ice was sold only on Sundays, the only day off the plantation workers received.
When the Japanese immigrants moved off the plantations, they opened grocery stores offering shave ice, and shave ice went commercial. Hawaii’s best shops have popularized shave ice around the world, with the most notable being Matsumoto’s on Oahu.
Shaving produces a very fine ice that appears snow-like. This extremely fine texture causes syrups added to it to be absorbed by the ice rather than simply surrounding it. It is far superior to snow cones which crush the ice and do not absorb the syrup. Hawaiian shave ice is traditionally served with multiple flavors and with a scoop of vanilla ice cream at the bottom of the cup. Sweetened condensed milk or coconut milk is often drizzled over the top as an added treat.