Does summer heat give you a hankering for the cold syrup-soaked wonderfulness of a snow cone? You can line up at one of the dozen or so Pelican Snowball franchises around the Charlotte metro, of course. But how about stepping out for a global shaved ice adventure?
Food historians think shaved ice originated in ancient China, where the treat is known as bing soo. So let’s start our tour with an Asian eatery.
Shaved ice is a big deal at Hong Kong Bakery, located inside the huge Super G Mart international grocery at 7323 E. Independence Blvd. Choose from a list of more than 30 toppings. I got fresh strawberries and pineapple gummies, then added condensed milk plus red bean paste, two sweet comfort-food flavors often found in Asian cuisine. Yum!
Vietnam has its own shaved ice tradition, which you can find at Pho Huong Que in the same shopping plaza as Super G. Chè ba màu means three-color dessert. A tall soda-fountain glass arrives with layers of green, red and white. Green is pandan, sort of like Jello cubes. Red are those sweet red beans again. And the white is mung-bean syrup at the bottom and shaved ice with coconut milk at the top. I thought all that might taste odd. But when I reached my long-handled spoon down through the layers, mixing bits from one and another, I found I really liked it.
The shaved ice of the Philippines is called halo-halo. “That means mix-mix,” says Leslie Pahang, whose family owns Bachi at 200 W. Mallard Creek Road. Here, the tall soda-fountain glass is layered with jackfruit, red beans, coconut jelly and shaved ice drenched with condensed and evaporated milk. On top, a purple scoop of yam ice cream, a Filipino favorite. “And a cube of my mom’s homemade flan,” Pahang says with pride.
In Mexico, shaved ice goes by the name “raspados.” Let’s end our tour at brand-new Raspados Jalisco at 5015 N. Tryon St. near Sugar Creek. Ice plus syrup is the simple recipe here. But the syrup flavors include Mexican favorites. I got mango — with fresh mango pulp, I think — plus good ol’ familiar strawberry.
Tom Hanchett is Historian-in-Residence with the Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. Reach him at Tom@HistorySouth.org.
Hong Kong Bakery
Hours: 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Sunday.
Location: Inside Super G Mart, 7323 E. Independence Blvd.
Pho Huong Que
Hours: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday. Closed Thursday.
Location: 7211 E. Independence Blvd.
Details: 704-536-0401; www.pho-huong-que.com.
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday, noon-10 p.m. Saturday and noon-9 p.m. Sunday.
Location: 200 W. Mallard Creek Church Road, #200.
Details: 980-819-7761; www.bachiclt.com.
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Sunday.
Location: 5015 N. Tryon St., #120.