With the help of shave ice, staying cool in Hawaii was pretty easy. And when we grew tired of shave ice (not me, David), there was always tart pineapple soft serve, guri-guri, and a variant of shave ice called snow. Cool yet?
In Maui, we stopped by Tasaka Guri Guri (founded in the 1900’s, currently still run by the Tasaka family), for the Maui classic: Guri-Guri. Supposedly, years ago, this “goodie-goodie” treat was sold to the Japanese plantation laborers in Maui, who in turn called it “guri-guri.” Not sure if this story is true or not, but it was definitely goodie-goodie to me. They only have two flavors, strawberry and pineapple, but it’s all that you need. This is a simple dessert, nothing fancy. Guri-guri tastes like sherbet, but a little creamier. I initially got two scoops ($1.10), one flavor each, but after a few bites, David went back into the store and got three more scoops ($1.65). Two scoops really isn’t enough.
Now I admit, the Dole Plantation is a tourist trap to the extreme, but dang, their pineapple soft-serve is damn good. At the Dole Plantation it goes by the name of Pineapple Cream, and a cup with pineapple topping is $4.50. It’s tangy, not too sweet, and creamy. Lazy asses that don’t want to make the trek to the Dole Plantation can also get their fix at Island Freeze in the The International Market Place. There, it’s called Dole Whip ($5.35; pictured above) and it tastes similar, but a little more icy, and the diced pineapple is fresher. The version at the Dole Plantation is better, but if you’re not heading up to the North Shore, it’s not really worth making a special trip for.
When I first went into the Snow Factory, I thought it was a shave ice shop. Quickly, however, I was told it wasn’t by Eddie (one of the owners). He said unlike shave ice which is ice with flavoring poured on top, snow is made from flavored ice. In addition, it’s shaved so thin the texture is like snow. He told me as soon as I put it in my mouth, it would “POOF!,” disappear “like a cloud.” I was convinced and I ordered the Lychee Snow ($4.25), upon his recommendation. Eddie was right, the texture was indeed completely different from shave ice. It was literally like flavored milky snow, light and fluffy. And he was also right about the flavor, lychee was the best. David and I tried passion fruit and grape on another occasion, but lychee tasted the most like the actual fruit. The Snow Factory also offers a few toppings (the usual: gummi bears, cereal, marshmallows, etc.), but Eddie advised against it. He said the toppings are for people who don’t get the concept of snow, and still want shave ice. We decided to listen to Eddie, but later David said he probably wouldn’t mind adding a topping. Taste-wise, the snow at Snow Factory is very subtle. If you have a sweet tooth like David, you might want a topping. I was fine without it. If we ever go back, I think David might sneak a topping or two when Eddie isn’t looking.
I got a small shave ice with azuki beans and condensed milk on top ($3). For my flavors, I picked lychee, pina colada, and guava syrup. If you want a plastic holder to catch all the melting shave ice and drippy syrup, it’s another quarter. I opted to forgo the holder and eat the shave ice faster instead.
In general, I liked Matsumoto’s. I wish the syrup was poured a little more uniformly so I didn’t end up with a lot of naked ice at the end, but overall the ice wasn’t too gravelly, and the azuki beans weren’t too mushy. My flavor choices however failed miserably in tandem with the condensed milk. The tart syrups and sticky sweet condensed milk tasted strangely bitter together. Bad combo, my bad.
David’s shave ice tasted better. He kept it simple by skipping the condensed milk, and sticking to basic flavors like tangerine and strawberry. Perhaps it’s best to keep it simple at Matsumoto’s.
My favorite shave ice was at Waiola, which Robyn wrote about on Serious Eats. I followed her lead and ordered the Custard Bowl ($4.50) in Obama Rainbow (cherry, lime, and passion fruit). Does our president like cherry, lime, and passion fruit? Who knows?! But I do.
The reason I liked Waiola the best is that they offer custard. It’s not caramelly flan, but it’s still good because you get some textural contrast. Icy shave ice and smooth custard is a win-win situation. Also, Waiola gets extra points for complete syrup coverage. Naked ice is for snowmen.
Do I have a favorite frozen Hawaiian dessert? I can’t really say, I guess it depends on my mood. As long as it’s delicious and cold, I’m happy. Stay cool guys, and happy long Labor Day weekend!
Tasaka Guri Guri
70 E Kaahumanu Avenue (b/n Hana and State Highway 311; map)
Kahului, HI 96732
Waiola Shave Ice
2135 Waiola Ave (corner of Paani St; map)
Honolulu, HI 96805