Try The Mango-iest Mango Shave Ice at Hawai‘i’s First Ice Monster in Waikīkī
The Taiwanese chain claims it was the first to create the item, using real fruit in the ice instead of syrup.
Photos: Martha Cheng
It is Taiwan’s time. In recent years, the island has been asserting itself in realms from the political to the culinary. And while the world may hesitate in acknowledging Taiwan’s independence from China, judging from the lines and proliferation of Din Tai Fung, a Taiwanese chain, and other Taiwanese restaurants across the country, there’s no hesitation in accepting its cuisine. Food has always been easier to swallow than politics.
Especially when it’s soft and sweet and tastes like mangoes. Enter Ice Monster, which opened last week in the middle of one of the rainiest and coldest weeks so far this season. Ice Monster, indeed. There are Ice Monsters in Taiwan (where it all started), China and Japan—the location in Hawai‘i is the first in the U.S. Frank Lo started Ice Monster in Taipei in 1997 and says that he invented mango shaved ice, which he made by incorporating fresh mango into the ice itself—puréeing the fruit and adjusting the flavor for the perfect balance of sweetness, acid and fragrance—before shaving it. At the time, hardly anyone made anything like it; most shops in Taiwan—and really, everywhere, including right here in the Islands—relied on syrups and toppings to flavor their ice. Ice Monster built its fame on that mango shave ice, and people have waited for hours to get it.
What’s the big deal? For one, the ice is incredibly soft. It’s shaved into wide ribbons that dissolve on the tongue like cold cotton candy. And second, since Ice Monster uses real fruit instead of flavored powders, the mango shave ice tastes of mangoes at the height of summer season—this might be my favorite way to eat mango outside of fresh mango itself. Other flavors include papaya, matcha, coffee, bubble milk and strawberry. The toppings for the shave ice are equally seductive—the silky panna cotta, the warm boba that accompanies some of the other ice flavors, and the intense black sesame ice cream paired with the matcha ice.
It does all come at a price, however. The shave ice starts at $13 for the bubble milk tea flavor, all the way up to $15.80 for the mango, though the bowls are big enough to share with one or two other people. (There’s also a kama‘āina discount of 20 percent.) The shave ice only comes in one size at the Waikīkī location, but the truck parked in the Don Quijote lot offers a small size for $7. The setting, obviously, is not as spiffy, but you also don’t have to deal with parking. All of Ice Monster’s components are made in a central kitchen near the airport, which speaks to more Hawai‘i locations coming up, but the company isn’t saying just where yet.
Open daily 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., 2255 Kūhiō Ave., (808) 762-3192, ice-monster-hi.com