Polar Bear Shaved Ice

During my most recent trip to Oahu, I had the fortune of being able to go to Matsumoto Shaved Ice! I’ve been wanting to go since I was about 8 years old, so it was create to finally go and experience it! What makes Matsumoto so special is that they use a lot of Japanese influences on their shaved ices. Things like red bean paste and dango(poached mochi) being used as shaved ice toppings were not as common prior to Matsumoto doing them. Growing up, we did have a shaved ice machine, and we would use it all the time. Fun fact, shaved ice is actually one of my childhood favorite desserts, with me having really specific memories of going to a shaved ice store nearby my grandma’s apartment in Taiwan, and getting it with condensed milk, purin, and strawberries. What I love about shaved ice is that you can 100% customize it however you want. However, in honor of the shaved ice I had at Matsumoto, I am using more Japanese ingredients as opposed to the western version that I grew up on. This recipe is 100% an homage to both my experience at Matsumoto in Hawaii and my childhood in Taiwan, but with a couple of my own little twists to it.

For the ice itself, I am actually freezing milk. A lot of Taiwanese dessert shops will actually shave frozen milk instead of ice to achieve this ultra feathery and silky texture. Just to guarantee that the milk freezes properly, I am doing equal parts milk and half and half. If you do not want to buy half and half, just do 3 parts milk to 1 part heavy cream. It’s the same thing. I wanted to introduce fat content to this shaved milk ice, just so that it will have a creamier texture, but still freeze and shave properly. With the other garnishes, we have a red bean paste that is made using a pressure cooker(normal red bean paste requires you to soak the red beans overnight then cook them for literal hours, so my recipe fast tracks that), shiratama dango, whipped cream, and condensed milk. I shaped the entire thing to resemble a polar bear as well, just to tie it all together with a cute, Harajuku-friendly appearance!

For the ice:
1 cup milk
1 cup half and half
1 tsp vanilla extract
a pinch of salt

Mix ingredients in a bowl until combined. Freeze ingredients together until solid, about 2-3 hours minimum if using ice cube molds and 5-6 hours if using the shaved ice cylindrical molds. When it is time to assemble, shave the ice either with a shaved ice machine or a fork. If using the fork method, keep the ice in the freezer for as long as possible, just so that it does not melt.

For the red bean paste:
1/4 cup dried azuki/red beans
2 cups water
1/2 cup granulated sugar, in two parts
a pinch of salt

In a pressure cooker, cook down the red beans with water and salt for about 50 minutes. Gently release the pressure and then continue to cook down the red beans on medium low heat until all of the liquid is cooked out. While the red beans are still warm, stir in the rest of the sugar until that is dissolved as well. You want the paste to be chunky, almost like a red bean jam. Allow your red bean paste to cool down completely, as it being too hot will just result in a polar bear puddle.

For the dango:
1/2 cup shiratamako
1/4 cup water
a pinch of salt

In a bowl, mix together everything to form your dough. Divide into 9 small balls and poke holes into each of them using your pinkie finger- this will help the dango cook faster. Poach the dango in boiling water until they begin to float, about 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer into an airtight container with cold water and refrigerate for up to 5 days.

To garnish:
Sweetened condensed milk
Whipped cream

Start with a small smear of the red bean paste on the bottom of a bowl. Place down the dango first and scoop on top of that the shaved milk ice using a green-handled ice cream scoop. Drizzle on a little condensed milk, and pipe on top of that a small mound of heavy cream. For the eyes and nose, use small bits of the red bean paste, rolled into little balls, to garnish.

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