Kakigori, a snowflake-like icy dessert is the metaphor of Japanese perfection. With the Kakigori The Japanese people have taken shaved-ice to another level, thanks to its fluffy texture, traditional toppings and homemade syrups.
The history of Kakigori dates back to the 8-12th centuries, known in Japan as the Heian period. Back in those centuries, as ice was really exclusive during the warm months, only the richest part of the society could afford to consume icy desserts. During the centuries of the Heian and the following periods huge frozen ice blocks had to be precisely preserved from lakes and glaciers in order to serve Kakigori in the summer. The common public had to wait until the 19th century to try it, when ice became more accessible thanks to improved transportation lines, companies and stores that specialized in ice. When it became feasible to transport ice from the northern part of Japan to the southern regions, all over the country numeros “ice water stores” were opened which also specialised in making and selling Kakigori. Since the middle of the 20th century, thanks to the invention of electric refrigeration, Kakigori has become a quintessential summer treat. Nowadays it’s really common to make Kakigori at Japanese homes with small portable machines.
Shaved-ice is a family name of many frozen desserts made from finely crushed ice and sweet condiments, condensed milk, syrups and toppings such as fruits or chocolate flakes. Shaved-ice has many different names and versions with particular recipes worldwide especially in the Far East. It is known as Kakigori in Japan, bingsu in South Korea, bao bing in China and Taiwan, halo-halo in the Philippines, nam kang sai in Thailand etc. Shaved-ice is made by a man powered or electric machine spinning a block of ice over a shaving blade. Time is an essential factor in the process of making shaved-ice because the dessert has to be served before the ice starts melting. It means that when you order Kakigori or another type of shaved-ice at a street vendor, the maker prepares it from scratch in front of you.
Even though shaved-ice desserts are well-known all over the world, Kakigori, with its simplicity, is the absolutely the best out of all versions, also thanks to the perfection of Japanese chefs. Kakigori has the “perfect” texture, “fluffy as clouds” and served with Japanese traditional toppings such as matcha syrup, sweet red bean paste, green tea, melon, lemon, sweet plum, grape and homemade mochi. Everything depends on the most appropriate machine and surprisingly enough the quality of ice also matters. In Japanese fine dining restaurants the ice of the Kakigori is from the purest natural ice such as the one from the volcanic range of the Yatsugatake Mountains or the Mount Fuji. In addition, the ice blocks are cut into an accurate shape with a calculated size and temperature before the shaving process. Even though Kakigori can be found everywhere in Japan during the summer, from street vendors to fine dining restaurants, the Kakigori pastry chefs are quite competitive and spend years or decades perfecting their own versions. The chefs try to make the fluffiest possible Kakigori that is almost creamy, never crunchy and delivers the taste of the toppings the best.
Being such a simple idea, the Japanese shaved-ice has conquered the world and especially the fine dining scene of New York where master chefs of fusion cuisines serve the most exclusive and creative versions of Kakigori. Inventing a new adaptation of Kakigori is easy and limitless. Basically it is possible to put anything on top of the snowy flakes. Thanks to the flexibility of Kakigori, it has become a famous dessert of both street vendors and exclusive restaurants not only in Japan.