Monday, March 10, 2014

Taiwan Day 10: Monstrosities of Shaved Ice from Ice Monster / 冰館雪花冰天天甜 (Taipei: Da An District / 台北市: 大安區)

On a hot and humid summer day in Taiwan, there is nothing better than a big bowl of shaved ice.  Whether it is topped with tropical fruits, mochi, flan, red bean, or ice cream, shaved ice can be made with a plethora of ingredients suited to anyone's taste.  Ice Monster originally made its name by making a massive mound of mango shaved ice for a relatively sky high price in a small, open air corner shop along the very touristy alleyway of Yong Kang Street.  It has since moved over to a much larger space on the bustling Zhongxiao East Road where the seating is much more comfortable and the menu has expanded.  Since its popularity has grown significantly, the wait time has also increased dramatically... but some things are worth waiting for.

The most popular item on the menu is the fresh mango shaved ice (新鮮芒果綿花甜) by far.  The mango itself has been injected into the ice, and chunks of the fresh fruit are packed into the sides of the icy mango mountain.  If that isn't enough mango for you, there is even a big scoop of mango ice cream that has been added to the base of the glowing yellow pyramid.  Honestly, it is way too sweet for me.  I believe that the creamy and buttery Taiwanese mango does not need sugar or syrup to enhance its sweetness.  Just the mango itself and perhaps a drizzle of condensed milk over the ice would have been sufficient for a magnificent shaved ice.  The panna cotta that comes with the shaved ice is the only thing that balances out the sweet snow.

The pearl milk tea shaved snow (珍珠奶茶綿花甜) is surprisingly not as sweet as the mango ice.  It is also a lot more whimsical and fun to eat.  Not only are the layers of frozen milk tea more apparent, the caramel syrup that runs down the side of the fluffy ice creates this glimmer of seduction that beckons your spoon over for a big shovel of the ice.  The tapioca pearls and a side of panna cotta top off the dessert.  I really like the addition of the chewy boba balls especially because of its textural contrast to the cottony soft ice.

Of all of the shaved ice and shaved snow that I've had at Ice Monster over the years, the jasmine tea shaved snow is my absolute favorite.  The jasmine tea is found throughout the ice, and the fragrance of which makes for a truly refreshing dessert.  In the truly hot summer months in the subtropical heat of Taiwan, I always prefer something that is cold but not laden with sugar, syrup or super sweetness.  There is a mini scoop of passion fruit sorbet, citrus jello and kiwi jam off on the side just for others who may need a touch more sugar, but the jasmine tea flavored ice by itself is the perfect choice for me.  Unfortunately, this item is off the menu, but I really hope that it is back in stores by the next summer season.

There are plenty of other desserts offered at the store... from coffee, peanut, pineapple, strawberry and lime shaved ice to dessert soups made with sweet potato, black sesame, and taro.  There is even a beer flavored shaved ice, which I am coming back for in the future.  But until then, keep cool, and get S.O.F.A.T.

Ice Monster
No. 297, Zhongxiao East Rd., Section 4, Da An District, Taipei City

ML - 20130709

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