Japanese shaved ice is called kakigori. There are a variety of flavors, and a traditional kind is Ujikintoki made with shaved ice on the bottom, drizzled with green tea syrup and topped with red bean paste. Other common toppings include shiratama dango (mochi), sweetened condensed milk and green tea ice cream. On a hot and humid summer day, eating shaved ice brings immediate refreshment and cools you down.
Ujikintoki is one of the most romantically named desserts. Uji is a city in Kyoto Prefecture, Japan, where cultivation of the premium-grade Uji Gyokuro green tea has a thousand-year-old history; the tea plants are shaded for a few weeks before harvesting. Uji is home to the UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site Byodo-in Temple, not always included as a destination in a tour of Kyoto, but a must-see stop along with other famed ancient shrines, such as Kiyomizu-dera Temple and Kinkaku-ji Temple in the region. Kintoki refers to red beans cooked in unprocessed sugar syrup. Sakata Kintoki, a folk hero said to have reddish skin and thus often painted red in storybooks, may be the source of the dessert’s long name.
Typical shaved ice you see are made with fruity flavors like strawberry, melon, lemon, or blue Hawaii and they can be purchased at the summer festivals and food stalls in Japan. However, Ujikintoki is usually served only in restaurants or sweet shops during the summer, and it’s a rather special treat.
You can purchase a shave ice machine, if you wish, but you should do this only after doing a bit of research and reading reviews. Inexpensive shave ice machines are easy to operate but won’t make the nice, fluffy, snowy shaved ice. To use the inexpensive models you simply insert the ice block, place the top of machine on and press down to start shaving ice. These machines usually only come with 2 ice molds so you may wish to use plastic cups about the same diameter to freeze additional ice blocks. Each ice block only makes 1 bowl of shaved ice.
The following recipe is easy; just make sure you have all the ingredients on hand.
- 1 teaspoon green tea powder
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoon sweetened condensed milk
- 2 tablespoons anko
- Ice cubes or a block of ice
- Dissolve green tea powder and granulated sugar in 2 tablespoons of hot water.
- Cool the syrup and put in a small serving bowl.
- Shave ice over the green tea syrup, using a home shaved ice machine.
- Top with anko.
- Pour sweetened condensed milk over the ice.