Weekender stops by the popular kakigori café to taste test the latest menu of sweet shaved ice.
“But how do they make it so smooth?” This was the first question we asked when we sat down at Ice Monster’s café and ate our first melt-in-the-mouth spoonful of mango kakigori (shaved ice). The answer, we’re told, lies in the unique recipe created by the Taiwanese founder of Ice Monster, Frank Lo.
The trick to achieving such soft and airy shaved ice lies in the original ice brick recipe, which incorporates mainly fresh ingredients including mango, coffee, and others. The mixture is then frozen into a, well, monster block of ice, before being machine-shaved to create the massive bowl of kakigori that lands on your table. This method sets Ice Monster’s kakigori apart from the conventional way of serving the popular treat, which usually consists of plain shaved ice topped with various flavorings. It also makes it more delicious, with the fruity taste lingering right through to your final spoonful.
Founded in Taipei in 1997, Ice Monster built up a loyal fanbase amongst Japanese kakigori lovers who would flock to the flagship store when on holiday in Taiwan for a taste of the now-famous dessert. The brand expanded into China, and then opened its first store in Tokyo in April 2015, with an Osaka branch following in March 2016.
Until the end of September, Ice Monster also has a pop-up shop in Tokyo Midtown, which is the only branch serving this season’s delicious “Pineapple Sensation” (¥1,500 eat-in, ¥1,200 take-out). Other flavors to choose from at the pop-up café include “Mango Sensation” (¥1,500 eat-in, ¥1,200 take-out), “Strawberry Sensation” (¥1,400 eat-in, ¥1,100 take-out), and “Bubble Milk Sensation” (¥1,000 eat-in, ¥900 take-out), which is tea-flavored and comes with a topping of chewy tapioca balls usually served in Taiwanese bubble tea. Every bowl also comes with a dollop of panna cotta, which balances out the sweetness of the dish.
What happens come winter, you ask? Die-hard enthusiasts claim that eating kakigori is even better when the weather is cold because you can enjoy the contrast between cozy indoor heating and the freezing treat. But in case you’d prefer something a tad warmer, watch this space for Ice Monster’s planned menu of Taiwanese hot sweets.