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6 Asian Shaved Iced Desserts That You Can Get in Metro Manila

September 18, 2019

In a tropical country like the Philippines, shaved ice desserts are a necessity. We love our halo-halo as much as the next person. But some days, we crave for a different taste. It’s a good thing, then, that Metro Manila is a hub of different cultures. Beyond our local desserts, we’re spoiled with foreign restaurants that bring their own cold sweets to the city. Here’s a guide to some Asian shaved iced desserts that you can get on a hot day.

Bao bing

One of the oldest shaved ice desserts, bao bing originated in China over a thousand years ago. It found its way to Taiwan, and has since become a local specialty. The dish is made of wafer-thin, flaky sheets of ice sweetened with condensed milk. It doesn’t fall apart as easily as other shaved ice desserts. Instead, it exhibits a sort of slightly melted ice cream-like texture. The ice is piled high in a mountain-like heap—enough to be shared.

Bao bing is sometimes called “eight treasures ice,” referring to its default eight-topping combo. Usual suspects include fresh and preserved fruits, mung beans, mochi, taro, and grass jelly.

Get it at: Dessert Kitchen, Caution Hot! Spicy Noodle House, Vampire Penguin

BINGSU

The first bingsu‘s were enjoyed during the Joseon Dynasty in Korea. The seobingo, or the official in-charge of the Royal Ice Box, would share ice with his colleagues. They’d shave it, then eat it with their fruit of choice.

Nowadays, a bingsu starts with a bed of snow-like, condensed milk-flavored shaved ice. It’s then topped with red beans, rice cakes, and fresh fruits. There are plenty of different iterations, from simple single-topping ones to loaded creative takes.

Get it at: Cafe Seolhwa, Hobing Korean Dessert Cafe, Snowbing

Cendol

Cendol (aka chendol or chendul) is a sweet shaved ice dessert with sweetened coconut milk, palm sugar, and pandan-flavored rice flour jellies. At times, it also has red beans and durian. You’ll find it in practically any restaurant in Malaysia—probably even on every street corner.

The origins of cendol is highly contested. Although it’s commonly associated with Malaysian cuisine, Indonesians claim it as an off-shoot of their very own dawet, a drink made of the same ingredients. Meanwhile, in 2018, CNN attributed to dish to Singapore (although their version includes sweetened red bean paste). It’s safe to say, though, that it’s an icon in the Malay Peninsula.

Get it at: Warung Kapitolyo

Halo-Halo

Of course, this list can’t not have the famous Philippine halo-halo. According to historian Ambeth Ocampo, halo-halo was inspired by the Japanese kakigori. The idea was brought in during the pre-war Japanese colonial period—just in time, since Filipinos had only been recently introduced to ice.

Our local shaved ice dessert is known internationally for its random array of toppings. It varies by season (and by preference), but most commercial versions include sweet beans, gulaman, rice krispies, nata de coco, macapuno, ube, and leche flan.

Get it at: Home, Almost any Filipino restaurant

Kakigori

Kakigori is a traditional summertime shaved ice dessert from Japan. It’s said to have originated in the 10th or 11th century. But at the time, it was only reserved for Japanese nobility. It became accessible to the common folk around the late 1800’s during the rise of industrialization.

The dish is made using a kakigori ice machine, which makes finely shaved ice from large blocks or rounds of ice. It’s drizzled with flavored fruit syrup and condensed milk, then topped with fresh fruits, beans, or nuts.

Get it at: Shari Shari Kakigori House, Ikigai Kakigori Cafe, Wabi-Sabi

Nam Kang Sai

Nam kang sai is Thailand’s shaved ice dessert entry. Similar to bao bing, it’s all about the toppings. And just like halo-halo, there’s no set formula. You’ll often find nam kang sai hawked in street food carts around the country. It uses coarsely shaved ice, made using hand-cranked ice machines. Vendors usually offer a variety of toppings, which you can mix and match any way you want. It’s finished with a red artificial flavoring called sala syrup.

Get it at: Smile Elephant Thai Restaurant, Easy Tiger

Jica Simpas Jica Simpas

Jica hopes that by writing about food she'll actually learn how to cook. But for now, she'll happily just eat everything—especially cookies.

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