A person pours a sauce over a bright red snow cone on a wooden background
Bethany OchsThe Kakigori derives from Japan

Although it may lack the same fanfare as barbecue, Buc-ee’s, and cowboy boots, shaved ice is every bit as Texan. After all, prevailing theory holds that the modern snow cone was introduced to the world at the State Fair in Dallas in 1920. Not to mention the treat has curative properties when it comes to offsetting Texas’ sweltering weather. Lines are a constant at classic neighborhood spots like Sno-Ball in Corpus Christi, established in 1972. But Texas shaved ice takes many forms today as it’s shaped by the state’s growing diversity. With offerings like floral Iranian faloodeh and candy-carpeted raspas, good ol’ snow cones are proving to be only the tip of the…well, you know.


One of the granddaddies of ice desserts—with references to Japanese nobility eating the dish as far back as the early 8th century—this towering pyramid of paper-thin ice shavings is known for its clean flavors. For instance, the owners of Katami in Houston import blocks of ice from Japan to ensure a pristine foundation for add-ons like yuzu cream, caramel sauce, and condensed milk.
TRY IT: Katami in Houston; Hestia in Austin; Matcha Cafe Maiko in San Antonio


Mexico’s take on the dessert is also the most ornate. Ice is scraped by hand (“raspar” means “to scrape”) then covered in a deluge of delicious syrups and toppings, such as dill pickles, Tajín, Kool-Aid powder, sour candy, chamoy, and fresh fruit kabobs taller than the cup itself. What’s most impressive is that all those tart, sweet, and spicy flavors never seem to clash, even when piled together in one bejeweled jumble.
TRY IT: Xquinkles Snack-Land in Mission and McAllen; Chamoy City Limits in San Antonio

Hawaiian Shave Ice

When Japanese laborers arrived in Hawaii to work its sugarcane fields in the late 1800s, they also brought a love of kakigori (see box below). That dessert inspired the island kingdom’s own powdery variation, albeit with shared ingredients like red azuki beans, mochi, and preserved plum powder. Today, shave ice often comes with ice cream at the core, like the Pick Me Up at Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice in Round Rock, where a scoop of vanilla is shrouded in a mound of green tea and coconut ice.
TRY IT: Aloha Shaved Ice in Denison; Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice in Round Rock


Dating back to the Persian empire—we’re talking B.C.—this Iranian classic consists of a granita-like base threaded with thin, vermicelli-sized rice noodles. The mixture is then spiked with simple syrup, rose water, and lime juice. Miri’s Kitchen in Houston tops the whole refreshing concoction with saffron and crushed pistachios.
TRY IT: Miri’s Kitchen in Houston; Shandiz Mediterranean Grill & Market in Plano

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Served in a tall glass to emphasize its layered, technicolor presentation, halo-halo begins with a shaved ice base that escalates into a choose-your-own-flavor adventure: sweetened condensed milk, ice cream, and fresh fruit, plus something crunchy and gelatinous, like flan or palm seeds. Starting with traditional purple ube ice cream or colorful nata de coco (coconut gel) pieces makes it almost museum-worthy. The tiny Filipino flags planted on top at Halo-Halo Filipino Food in El Paso creates a true sugary spectacle.
TRY IT: Sari-Sari in San Antonio; Halo-Halo Filipino Food in El Paso

Bao Bing

Enjoyed for more than 1,000 years, this Chinese creation started to take off stateside after Richard Nixon’s visit to Beijing in 1972. Since that fortuitous state dinner, the shareable dessert has also flourished here in Texas. At Meet Fresh in Katy, the specialty is called the Taro Paste Volcano because it looks like a science fair entry—a scoop of vanilla erupts from a mountain of boba, red beans, caramel pudding, taro chunks, and taro paste sourced from Taiwan.
Meet Fresh in Katy; Teapioca Lounge in Round Rock; SnoMo in Lakeway


Similar to bao bing when it comes to toppings, this Korean iteration opts for finer, snow-like ice shavings that are sometimes made from dairy products. Mixed in sweet red beans and pieces of chewy rice cake (tteok) are almost always a must, but places like Flower Mound’s Snowy Bingsu & Boba like to Americanize the dish with candy bars and coffee.
TRY IT: Ninja Mochi Donut Desserts in Corpus Christi; Snowy Bingsu & Boba in Flower Mound

From the July/August 2024 issue

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