Written by: Samantha Chang and Fajar Davis
This month on Echo Eats, we decided to do something a little different and a little pricier – we tried out three different takes on the shaved ice dessert! Korean and Japanese versions of shaved ice are growing ever the more popular among students due to the trendy vibe of the restaurants and the staggering size of the deserts, so we thought we’d go see what all the fuss is about and how it compares to our own Malaysian ABC.
#1: Premium Kakigori by MyKori, SS15
Our first stop was to try out Kakigori – Japan’s take on shaved ice. We went to MyKori in SS15 due to its relatively near distance to campus. MyKori’s flavor selection was plentiful, but we went with their bestseller, the Melon Kakigori, which is made out of melon milk ice, honeydew balls, nata de coco and almond slivers.
At a whopping RM26, you may have to skip a few meals to afford this one. Granted, the portion size is probably meant to be shared by 2-3 people, but it still falls on the higher end of the price range. There are several flavours that are slightly cheaper, but most of them are at least RM20.
Its presentation is equal parts confusing and delightful. With shiny, fat orange orbs of melon circling a hill of shaved ice – it definitely doesn’t look like any dessert we’ve seen before. It’s also served in a melon shell and garnished with a floppy mint leaf. Overall, it looks playful and quaint, but you may feel the urge to put it on your shelf rather than in your mouth.
Upon first taste of the shaved ice, a sugary, candy-like melon flavour (reminiscent of Family Mart’s melon ice cream) hits you immediately. The texture of the ice is just okay – a little rough, but it still melts pleasantly. It’s topped with slivered almonds, which complement it well and give it a more complex aftertaste; their nuttiness is also good foil to the sweetness. The melon balls – which although look like they promise an adventure – don’t actually add much of a difference in flavour, and kind of fall apart in your mouth anticlimactically. After a few bites, the texture and flavour becomes monotonous. The nata de coco buried in the middle does well to add a bit of variety to the texture, but it’s not enough to carry the rest of the team.
The Melon Kakigori is nice, but unremarkable; and we weren’t quite sure the taste warranted the price. To be fair, there are like a hundred other flavours to go through before we can make a blanket statement – but we think there are other options out there that deliver more of a bang for your buck.
#2: ABC from Aneka Manisan at AEON food court, Sunway Pyramid
Next on the agenda, we dropped by the local mall for an easy fix of shaved ice. ABC is the Malaysian take on the dessert, with ABC standing for “Air Batu Campur”. The name doesn’t quite convey the full scope of the dessert, but we understand it to be this colourful concoction of ice, rose syrup, gula melaka, red beans and jelly cubes.
By far the cheapest of the 3 yet containing the most variety, this bowl of sugary goodness was just RM5. While 5 ringgit as a student can be stretched far, it can’t be stretched far enough for its value to be deemed more than what this dessert is worth. What we’re trying to say is that you probably won’t be giving up your laundry or desperately badgering your friends for Grab coupons after treating yourself to this one.
Hear me out on this grade- ABC has a lot to offer visually. There’s the ice itself, white, glistening; the vibrantly pink rose syrup; the assortment of jellies and fruits lurking under the surface – and not to forget the chopped peanuts sprinkled across like fairy dust. However – this is done with no artistry. By the time we’ve dug through the ice to get to the ‘hidden gems’, the colour of the entire thing is a muddy brown. This dessert makes for a pretty initial picture but it’s unable to completely capture the magical layering happening underneath the surface. We believe it is time the ABC was restructured. If you really want a good ABC shot, you may just have to hunt for a shop that sells them in clear bowls, elsewhere.
I’ll admit, when asked to complete this Echo Eats episode, I was apprehensive about my own abilities to taste “professionally”. I am basically a garbage can, happily munching away at anything as long as it’s food. You know Remy’s rat brother in the movie “Ratatouille”? The one that eats trash while Remy is off toasting cheese? Yeah, that’s me. But you know what? I’ll be damned if ABC isn’t one of the best tasting desserts you can get anywhere in the world. The sweetness of the rose syrup, the creamy condensed milk, the jellies and beans that add contrast to the crisp ice melting on your tongue, it’s an amazing experience unique to each person who tackles this national treasure.
My experience at the food court wasn’t the greatest. The wait was long despite me being the only customer at the counter. They forgot to give me a spoon and I had to go back to ask for one. Even after all the renovations, the ambience of the place is not really there. But ignoring all those factors, considering the food itself – for its price, this dessert is a pure delight that’ll leave your sugar cravings 100% satisfied without making a dent in your pocket.
#3 Bingsu at Caffe Bene, Sunway Pyramid
Finally, sticking to Sunway Pyramid as we understand not everyone is willing to take the trip to the well-renowned SS15 Courtyard, we tried a coffee bingsu in Caffe Bene, Sunway Pyramid. Normally, “coffee” isn’t what comes to mind when you think of shaved ice but in the case of the Koreans, it is.
While not as expensive as kakigori, one cannot delude themselves into thinking that this is the same kind of price range as our ABC. The ‘small’ size being RM18 (although large enough to happily share between three people), it’s the kind of treat you go for when you’re graduating or celebrating a birthday. Not exactly a ‘spur of the moment’ price, that is, unless you’re balling.
I’m starting to think there’s really no way to spruce up a shaved ice. At all different price points, the results are just perplexing. This one is like a reverse of those ‘deep’ charts of icebergs with the caption “what you see versus what you don’t see”. All the action is happening above the surface and the rest of it is just.. ice.
The scoop of mocha ice cream on top looks like a cute little hill, maybe home to some cute little chocolate balls. You’d be wrong in guessing that though. Under all the ice cream, koko krunch petals and cashew nuts, is a thick layer of red bean paste. Since it’s coffee themed, they don’t have many options to play with colour but I have to say, the overall brown aesthetic just isn’t working for me.
I like coffee. I like chocolate cereal. What can I say? This hit all the marks. While I’m not a fan of red beans in general, the sweetened paste added the sweetness the dish needed in order to be a dessert, without overpowering the overall coffee taste. I’d say this is the dessert for people who aren’t all too hung up on sugar. Once the nuts, beans and ice cream from the surface were all gone, we were just faced with a long journey burrowing down into the iced coffee with tiny spoons. The ice itself was pebbled, not the crude shredding like the ABC, and the coffee taste was pretty consistent throughout the dish. All in all, it was pleasant, but I probably wouldn’t order it again.
The ambience, service and setting of this place were all 5 star winners for me (although I did catch a barista laughing at me as I took great lengths to get you all a picture). Beautiful lighting, clean, no annoying pop songs causing noise pollution, it’s really everything I want from the places I dine at. However, the desert itself wasn’t fantastic. Much like a one hit wonder, once the “wow” of the delicious coffee ice cream on the top was over, we were left with a mountain of ice trying to disguise itself as a personality. If that’s what you’re into, then cool. Personally, I’d just like another scoop of that ice cream please.
C’mon guys, you knew this was coming. It’s the ABC for sure! With the best price, most variety and sweetest taste, not to mention the fact that it’s accessible in so many different places with so many add-ons, it was sure to be our winner from the second we tasted this dish. We were hoping the other countries’ takes would surprise us, but nonetheless, we’re happy that Malaysia’s spot is secure in having the number 1 shaved ice concoction.
With all the national spirit still up in the air, why not go visit a mamak or Malay restaurant and give yourself a sugar rush with this old classic? Let us know what your thoughts are on all of these delicious variations of the shaved ice dessert, or leave a comment to share with us your favourite shops near campus!