Fad or Future

Skating on thin ice: has frozen dessert kakigori got the cool factor?

This Japanese sweet has tickled tastemakers at a few select spots, but has it got wider appeal?

3 April 2018
ice creamjapaneseasian
image credit: Theerawan Bangpran/iStock/Thinkstock

The Lobster Room’s kakigori is arguably one of the most photographed desserts in New York right now. A fluffy-looking, egg-shaped mound of shaved ice with blood orange syrup poured over one side and condensed milk on the other, it’s a classic eye-catching treat, with the New York Times remarking in its review: “As soon as one table orders it, everybody else in the vicinity wants one.”

Nothing could be simpler to make than this chilled eat; all it takes is a tasty topping and the help of a nifty, purpose-built machine (traditionalists, of course, believe it should be painstakingly hand made).

Though similar to other shaved-ice desserts like Taiwan’s xuehuabing and Korea’s patbingsu, kakigori is generally more delicate, with fewer adulterations and a consistency closer to snow than ice – the downside of this being that it tends to melt a lot faster.

Cool toppings

Ease of customisability has led to a whole range of variations: in Japan, popular flavourings include red bean and matcha, though it can be made more complex with the addition of fruit jelly and mochi (sticky rice cakes). Shibuya in London’s Chinatown has featured one made with Oreos.

Considering most of the dessert consists of frozen water, it’s also a light snack or finish to a meal, low in calories and relatively healthy (we’re talking about the fruit/tea versions, not so much the sugar-filled-biscuit version).

Over in the States, kakigori is having a bit of a moment. David Chang’s Majordomo is offering it in LA, while smaller spots like Bonsai Kakigori and The Little One also feature the dessert.

In England, it’s been a notable item on the menu of Jason Atherton’s Japanese spot Sosharu.

So what do you reckon Sparkie, is a freeze coming?


Sparkie says:

One of my favourite things in Singapore was their version of shaved ice. It came in horrendous neon colours that would never be found in nature and was topped with red beans, sweetcorn and various bits of jelly.

Aside from the minor difficulty of getting hold of the equipment required and organising a supply of the ice in the correct shape, there's really no good reason this type of thing couldn't take hold over here. Swap out the neon syrups for natural fruit concentrates and find some toppings more likely to be accepted than beans and sweetcorn, and I think it would go down quite well.

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