Along with the cold Korean soup naeng-myun, Taiwanese shaved ice is one of my favorite ways to cool off when humidity starts to make me overheat. Ice Fire Land, a hotpot shaved ice hybrid owned by Timothy Chuang, used to be my favorite place to get a bowl of this refreshing sweet treat. Chuang has changed the name of his restaurant to Taipei 101, for Taiwan’s gleaming office tower. Hotpot’s been replaced by an ambitious menu of Taiwanese fare, but the shaved is still there on a separate menu.
I was glad to know that I could still get shaved ice when I walked in yesterday. “Pudding, pineapple,condensed milk,” I said pausing to ask Mr. Chuang, which of the many balls tapioca, taro,or yam were the chewy ones. “They’re all chewy,” he said, so I settled on yam.
As I sat and caught up with Mr. Chuang we reminisced about the Asian Feastival and talked about his new menu and some exciting plans he has for the neighborhood. After about 10 minutes I started to wonder why this bowl of shaved ice was taking so long to make. Perhaps they were freezing the water? About another five minutes later the waitress presented a plastic bowl of snowy white shaved ice topped with blobs of pudding, pineapple, amber-colored yam balls, and a drizzle of condensed milk. The coolest thing about it though was the steam rising off the top.
At first I thought it was because it was so cold, then I took a spoonful, including an oblong-shaped yam ball. As expected the ice was cooling, crunchy and sweet, but that yam ball held a pleasant surprise. It was warm and chewy, presenting a contrast that called to mind the joint’s original name. “We make them fresh,” Chuang said. “When they get cold they get too chewy.” Indeed as a worked my way through the bowl, the yam balls started to firm up. And the ice melted turning what’s usually a bowl of snow into a sweet, cold soup. It’s one of the more unique shaved ice eating experiences I’ve ever had. I can’t wait for it to get really hot and humid so I can go back.
Taipei 101, 135-11 40th Rd., Flushing, 718-886-8600