Sunday, September 4, 2011

Authenticity and shaved ice (The Shaved Ice Shop)

The Shaved Ice Shop sign

People always want to be innovative and on the cutting edge of things. Food blogging is kind of like that. There's food trends and other nonsense that suggest that you have to be writing about the latest thing in order to be relevant. Well shit... what if things don't need to changed? What if the original product already kicks so much ass that Batman gets more aroused thinking about it than Robin in spandex? That's how I feel about Taiwanese shaved ice. The traditional bowl of shaved ice is not a very hard concept to implement... you shave ice into microscopic crystals, drizzle with syrups and condensed milk, and then top it with junk (usually a singular fruit or some sort of sweet bean concoction). When executed properly, it is downright beautiful. It's fine the way it is, don't innovate, don't be "inspired" by it, don't ever change it. For me, shaved ice should only be recreated if it's authentic... bastardizing my childhood dessert of choice is basically the same as spitting in the face.

I'm not entirely sure how I feel about The Shaved Ice Shop. They charge an insane amount of money for what really just amounts to water, syrup, milk, and a few toppings... which feels kind of wrong, but I get that supply and demand dictates price, and if it actually tastes great... then there's no problem. Past that - they say they're "inspired by" Taiwanese shaved ice, so I can't really blame them for producing a product that's not an authentic rendition of the original, but like I said, it feels wrong.

Plain shaved ice

To be completely honest, their shaved ice has potential. They do a decent job of shaving the ice down to a moderate consistency, and let's be honest... nothing covered in condensed milk will actually taste bad, but the final product just isn't impressive. You're probably wondering how something so brilliantly stupid in design can actually vary in quality. Easy. It's all in the details. Past the actual process of hulk-smashing the ice into small pieces, The Shaved Ice Shop totes struck out when it came to toppings. Red beans, mochi, grass jelly... all are tried-and-true toppings and for the most part should result in a somewhat formulaic taste. The bowl we got had red beans harder than frozen fishsticks and mochi that was powdery and inconsistent from piece to piece. Mochi shouldn't look like that shit from Pinkberry! Mochi should be smooth, fluid, gelatinous, and appear glass-like! Disappointment doesn't really begin to describe it. If you're gonna tell people in NYC that this is what Taiwanese shaved ice is, at least do it right. Embarrassing.

Red bean snow ice

I know this is anecdotal evidence at best, but here's a counter example: this random fruit drink stand in the basement of the New World Mall in Flushing. Absolutely no false pretenses about what they do - when you walk up to their counter, their Taiwanese accents are thicker than condensed milk, and their product is unchanged from the old fashioned kinds from the motherland. End result? A bowl of shaved ice topped with authentic toppings - with red beans that aren't heard as nipples on ice - that tastes fantastic and downright nostalgic. Instead of trying to impress people with their never-ending lists of random ass toppings, they just have the few flavors that existed originally and they do them well.

tl;dr - I'm glad shaved ice is getting more popular in NYC. I'm not glad that everyone's doing a mediocre job of it. The Shaved Ice Shop needs to work on their ice shaving game, become more authentic and shit. Plus the dude's not even Taiwanese! Why you frontin' bro? As for now, peeps should go to Flushing, they know what's up.

The Shaved Ice Shop
Hester St Fair, New York, NY 10002


Danny said...

That damn New World Mall. I will eat there one day!! I will!!!

I think shit like this is always best when it's simpler.

Nicholas said...

Danny - well the starting product was fine... no need to edit. Yo let me know when you wanna go on a weekend, I'd be down. Bro-date it.

Eileen said...

There's actually a great restuarant that sells Taiwanese shaved ice in North Miami (run by people who are actually from Taiwan). I was shocked. Well, maybe not. It gets bloody hot down here.

Nicholas said...

Eileen - I guess it gets hot here too? I can't tell if I hate the shaved ice in NYC more for the price or the lack of quality.

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