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Aug 1, 2001 01:52 PM

Chinese Shaved Ice

  • j

I would love to find a place in NYC that sells the version of Chinese shaved ice that I enjoyed when I lived in Houston.

We called it "Bing" and we got it at May's Ice Cream in Houston's Chinatown. It starts with a big cup of shaved ice and then you can add various toppings such as grass jelly, almond jello, different varieties of sweet beans, tapioca, etc. After they add all your toppings, they add some condensed milk on top. Great hot-weather sweet treat!

I've seen versions here with brightly-colored sweet syrups (which I'm not crazy about) and sometimes the beans, but never with the wide variety of options to choose from.

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  1. Your description brings back memories of adventurous snacking during an idyllic year I spent in Taiwan. I too am curious where I can again sample this unique treat --

    7 Replies
    1. re: kele

      Besides "Specialty Rice", I've been told that Laifood(also in Flushing, also on Prince, at 39th Ave)has the best shaved ice. I've only had their Taiwanese snacks there. If you crave Taiwanese food, you might want to look them up. If you get shaved ice there, I'd love hear a report.

      1. re: HLing

        Ive never had the Chinese version, but it sounds pretty similar to the filipino halo halo sold at Krystles and I guess other places, which also features various beans, jellies and condensed milk. As well as to some of the Malaysian iced drinks (ABC etc), tho I think those may have coconut milk instead? Could you explain how the Honk Kong/Taiwan versions differs? Seems like they must have a common source.

        1. re: jen kalb

          I'm not familiar with the Filipino nor the Malaysian version of the shaved ice.

          The Taiwanese version is not something you want to get to go because the shaved ice is pretty fluffy and light and well just turn into liquid if it's prepared ahead of time. (This is probably the same with the other types?)

          In Taiwan when I had it, the "toppings" actually go on the bottom, and then the shaved ice are shaved unto them, piling up like a white pyramid. Then syrup and, if you like, condensed milk over the ice.

          The toppings can be slow cooked peanut, azuki beans, kidney beans, mung beans, barley, oatmeal, taro, baby rice cakes, candied& preserved star fruits(and many other fruits), grass jelly, the yellow jelly(ai-yu), tapioca, gummy candies...I'm sure I'm leaving out something. One of the favorite is just azuki beans, shaved ice, condensed milk and syrup.

          Is this pretty different from the shaved ice you know?

          1. re: HLing

            Heres a link with a picture and recipe for halo halo. It is more ornate than what Krystles in Queens serves. I think theirs has condensed rather than fresh milk on it. You can also buy jars of the more exotic ingredients (they are in layers) for halo halo in stores with filipino products.


            1. re: jen kalb

              Thanks for the link to the Halo Halo. It looked tasty.
              I've never been to Krystle's. Where is it in Queens? Is it a restaurant?

              One thing I miss about the Taiwanese shaved ice is the plate. I think for convenience's sake, most places here serve them in a styrofoam cup, which doesn't leave enough room for all the toppings, and for the ice to spread out. It would be nice to have access to the plain snowy white shaved ice and to the toppings, and also to the parts that are mixed together....all at once.

              1. re: HLing

                Sorry I misspelled the name - it is Krystal's Pastry Shop. It is located at 6902 Roosevelt in Woodside, Queens , just east of the BQE - about midway between the woodside and 74th St./Roosevelt subway stops on the Flushing Line. and just a few blocks from Sripaphai.

                The store I am talking about which sells the drinks and pastries as well as other dishes is on a corner - they also have a little storefront midblock.

                While I havent tried for it, I suspect other filipino places (Elvie's Turo Turo, etc) serve halo halo too, especially at this time of year!

                Im looking forward to hearing how you do on your shaved ice quest.

          2. re: jen kalb

            I think the malaysian name for this treat is ais (ice) kacang as well as ABC. It is served at most of the malaysian restaurants around town and may satisfy your craving. On Cyberkuali, they do not deign to provide a recipe - but in their filipino feature articles say that the filipino halo-halo (mix mix) is essentially the same as ais kacang.

            I hope you post about some of the versions you find! This is making me hungry on a hot day.

      2. May's Ice Creme! I remember them well. Those "Bing" and my favorite watermelon juice quenched many a brutal Houston summers ....

        I'm usually hesitant about shaved ice in Chinatown. I did finally get some in Flushing at a self-helped shaved ice place that's less than a month old. It's English name I think is "Specialty Rice", although the writing is small. The chinese name is big in black over red awning. This place is on Prince, between Roosevelt and 40th rd, I think...Well, it's just a couple of doors down from Fortune Gourmet.

        I like it because it's clean and cool inside. Also you get to choose however many toppings and make your own combinations. a small cup is $2.50 and large is $3.50. Yes, they have the jelly, peanuts, oatmeal, azuki beans, big red beans, mung beans and more. I really like their taro jello when they have it. Same goes for the coconut laced jello.


        3 Replies
        1. re: HLing

          I finally got over to Flushing on Wednesday night and tried out the bing at Specialty Rice. It was exactly what I was looking for! Great selection of toppings and pretty good price ($2.50) for a good sized bowl. I'm definitely going back.


          1. re: Julie

            Glad you made it! I also made it there today(after reading your post).Nice retreat from the humidity.

            1. re: Julie

              Hi. My favorite places are in Chinatown in the "tunnel" located between Bowery and Elizabeth Street. One restaurant is named Ko Luck and the other is Malaysia. Both are situated right next to each other and they vary in their "bing" styles. Malaysia offers a red, sweetened syrup with your ice while Ko Luck offers a pre-mixed slurpy-like ice mixture with your toppings.
              Both are delicious and refreshing.

          2. I think everyone has already mentioned the place in Flushing on the corner of Roosevelt and Prince (can't remember the name). They have all the toppings. The place is always packed, but I stop in there whenever I'm in NYC.

            Rival just came out with an electric ice shaver for home use which uses plain ice cubes from your freezer. Ours has been in constant use since we got it about a month ago. You can buy many of the toppings in cans at Chinese groceries.

            1. It's been awhile since I've been on this part of 32nd ST. (between broadway and 5th???)but I remember a bright upscale desert/coffee shop that had what looked like gigantic shaved ice sundaes. It's right by the place with the waterfall and piano. I always wanted to try but never gotten around to it. Has anyone been there?

              3 Replies
              1. re: iron frank

                Hi Frank --

                The place is called Pari Pari Ko and it's decent but way overpriced relative to other less upscale shaved ice places. The "sweet redbean ice" is a hefty $7 and various "tropical snow ice" flavors like "kona orange", "makiki bubble gum" and "ewa pina colada" are $5 apiece (compared to $2.50 at Fortune Gourmet in Flushing). As far as I know, it's one of only two joints on the block that offer that kind of thing -- the other is called Cafe Metro and it's on the opposite side of the street. Just did a boba recon walk on 32nd between 5th and 6th during lunch and couldn't find any bubble tea. The search goes on...

                1. re: Dennison

                  Thanks, keep us posted with the boba info! I swore I saw the ads in a couple of places further east maybe?

                  1. re: Dennison

                    I have been looking for bubble tea around there as well, and haven't found any. I see that new cafe is opening (Cafe Zen or something like that.) I wonder if they will carry it.