Shaved ice is a refreshing summertime favorite for this hot-blooded Italian-American. Latino versions of the treat skew toward minimalism, just some flavored syrup and perhaps a drizzle of sweetened condensed milk. In Asia it’s a more elaborate affair, often featuring red beans, boba, pudding, and fruits. The most elaborate one I’ve encountered is the nam khaeng sai ($5), at Tea Cup Café.
I’ve been meaning to try this psychedelic looking shaved ice for weeks. And yesterday’s heat provided me with ample reason to do so. Sweetened red bean, popping boba, pudding, young coconut, and various gelatins top a veritable glacier. Digging down into the ice itself brought up a spoonful stained pink by sala fruit flavored Hale’s Blue Boy Syrup. As the ice melts and combines with the milk, the dregs take on the color of Pepto Bismol. Thankfully they taste only of sugar and refreshment.
As I ate my nam khaeng sai, I marveled at how four kids at the next table were splitting a bowl. By the time I got home I realized there’s a good reason not to eat an entire bowl of this stuff by yourself. It’s so sweet I fell into a sugar stupor and dozed off in my air conditioned room.
Tea Cup Cafe, 76-19 Woodside Ave., Elmhurst