Japanese Dessert: Kakigoori/Shaved Ice with Syrup


Kakigōri (かき氷) is a very popular Japanese dessert made from shaved ice flavored with syrup.
It was served for the first time in Kanagawa Prefecture in 1869!


Popular flavors include: strawberry, cherry, lemon, green tea, grape, melon, “blue-Hawaii” sweet plum, and colorless syrup. Some shops provide colorful varieties by using two or more different syrups. To sweeten Kakigōri, condensed milk is often poured on top of it.


It is nearly identical to a snow cone but can have a slightly rougher consistency and a spoon is almost always used. The traditional way of making kakigōri involves using a hand cranked machine to spin a block of ice over an ice shaving blade. However, electric ice shavers are most often used, though street vendors can still be seen hand-shaving ice blocks in the summer.


In addition to the streets, kakigōri is also sold in festivals, convenience stores, coffee shops, and restaurants. During the hot summer months, kakigōri is sold virtually everywhere in Japan. Some coffee shops serve it with ice cream and sweet bean paste. Convenience stores may also sell it already flavored and packaged similar to ice cream.


In other countries in East Asia, similar varieties can be seen.

Halo halo: Filipino shaved ice topped with sweetened beans, nata de coco and ice cream. “Halo-Halo” literally means “mix-mix” in the Tagalog language. Some shops in Japan also sell these sweets.
Bingsu (빙수) Korean shaved ice. The most popular kind is patbingsu. It is topped with sweetened red beans, canned fruits, and soybean powder. Many other varieties can be found throughout the country.
Bàobīng (刨冰) in Mandarin Pinyin or Chhoah-peng (剉冰) in Taiwanese POJ: Taiwanese shaved ice. There are many varieties in Taiwan. Some of them are topped with fresh fruits, fruits syrup and condensed milk. Some of them are topped with sweetened beans, glutinous rice balls and brown sugar syrup, while others will even use seafood. Some vendors use milk ice to make finer shaved ice, and some vendors may sometimes use a hand blade to shave block ice in order to produce rough crushed ice.
Ice kacang: Malaysia and Singapore Shaved ice topped with sweetened syrup of various colours and flavours, condensed and evaporated milk, and sometimes also durian pulp or vanilla ice cream. Beneath the ice sweetened red beans, canned fruit, attap seeds and grass jelly are usually added. Electric ice shavers are often used; though some vendors may use a hand blade to shave the ice in order to produce a rough texture. A variation of this would be Cendol which is shaved ice with sweet green coloured glutinous rice noodles drizzled with palm sugar it is usually accompanied with kidney beans and canned sweetcorn.
Nam Kang Sai: Thai Shaved Ice. In Thailand, this kind of cold dessert is very popular as well. The differences from other countries’ shaved ice is that in the Thai version the toppings (mixings) are in the bottom and the shaved ice is on top. There are between 20-30 varieties of mixings that can be mixed in. Among them are young coconut that have been soaked in coconut milk, black sticky rice, chestnuts,sweetened taro, red beans, sarim (thin strands of cooked flour that is very chewy and slippery) and many more.

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12 thoughts on “Japanese Dessert: Kakigoori/Shaved Ice with Syrup”

  1. Hi!!!! I actually jumped when I saw your name, because Japanese food is one of the cuisines I know very little about. Being a vegetarian, I’ve always thought of it as mostly meat and therefore “not my problem,” but I’ve made some Japanese friends who are veggie which makes me curious. I look forward to reading your blog!


    1. Dear Friend!
      Actually, Japan, if you know your way around, is one of the few countries in the whole world where vegetarian (I’m not, bit I do appreciate it enormously) cuisine is possible on an everyday basis, and what with absolutely fresh products. On top of that Shizuoka Prefecture is THE vegetables research in Japan!
      Do check vegan and vegetarian cuisine on the PAGES (right side)!
      Looking forward to talking to you!
      Do you ahve a blog?


      1. I’m excited now!!!! I can’t wait till I have more time to look through all your veggie recipes.

        I do have a blog (I wonder why it didn’t come up with my comment).

        It’s mostly healthified versions of junk food I can’t live without, but I plan on diversifying it a lot. Right now, I’m trying to move into some more middle eastern/south asian cuisine recipes (those seem to be the regions where most of my “ethnic” food recipes come from). If you have any requests, let me know and I’ll invent something!


      2. P.S. I hate boiled soybeans sprinkled with salt, but I don’t think fresh ones are available where I live (except at delis and stuff where they come pre-boiled).


      3. I don’t like them this way either!
        The best way to cook them is to find them fresh in season, rub them with a little salt and cook them in a non-stick pan with absolutely nothing and covered with a lid.
        The beans will cook in their own water and the salt will almost disappear!


  2. I love Halo-Halo made with purple yams, but I have to say, I would absolutely love it if you were to post the green tea syrup recipe. Green tea anything just makes me swoon!


  3. Nothing beats shaved ice on a warm summer day. Now you’ve got me craving for some Halo-Halo. It’s been a while since I’ve made some. Luckily the weathers beginning to feel right to make these again.


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