Brain Freeze

The 6 Best Icy Treats Right Now

Keep the spirit of summer going with shave ice, snowballs, bingsu, and chamoyadas.

By Katherine Chew Hamilton

An assortment of New Orleans-style snowballs from Hana's PDX.

Ice cream might be rich and decadent, but when the temperature breaks 90, the best way to go is with an icy treat rather than a dairy-based one. Think of this guide as a survey of how places around the world keep cool on the hottest days, including Hawaiian-style shave ice, New Orleans-style snowballs, Mexican chamoyadas, Korean bingsu, and shaved ice with Japanese matcha. It’s all about the texture of the ice, the flavor of the syrups, and the creative combos of toppings and fillings, whether it’s a hidden scoop of vanilla ice cream buried under the ice, a drizzle of condensed milk, chewy gummy bears or mochi, a dusting of sour-salty-sweet Hawaiian li hing mui powder made from preserved salty plums, or a healthy drizzle of li hing’s culinary cousin, the Mexican spicy-sour sauce known as Chamoy. Great minds think alike when it comes to beating the heat. 

Hana’s PDX

A mango and Hawaiian-flavored snowball from Hana's PDX.

At this New Orleans-style snowball cart, owner Alan Bell makes dozens of flavors of snowballs in hard-to-find flavors, including wedding cake, margarita, daiquiri, strawberry shortcake, and the watermelon-strawberry-coconut hybrid flavor Tiger’s Blood. There’s also a selection of dye-free flavors, sour flavors, and sugar-free syrups. Don’t forget to add one (or more) toppings like condensed milk or gummy bears, or get your snowball stuffed with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for an extra-satisfying hot day treat. Grab a Kool-Aid pickle to snack on while you’re there, too. 4500 NE 122nd Ave, @hanas_pdx

Ome Calli

Stay cool yet spicy with a chamoyada.

The chamoyada at Ome Calli is a thing of extravagance, both visually and in terms of flavor. Start with a raspado, or shaved ice, then add chamoy, a spicy-salty-sweet sauce made from preserved salty plums. Garnish the rim with chili, salt, and lime juice, and dunk the fruit paleta of your choice into the raspado. Going for the medium or large sizes (the latter clocking in at a massive 32 ounces) also adds spicy mango and tamarind candy straws. 12795 SW Canyon Road, Beaverton, @omecallifrozentreats

Wailua Shave Ice


The shave ice concoctions from this Kauai-based shop are precarious-looking works of art. Try the lava flow, made with pineapple shave ice topped with a thick halo of haupia (coconut) foam, drizzled with strawberry sauce, and topped with fresh strawberries and pineapple, or the cheery purple ube flavor with ube coconut foam and toasted coconut on top. For chocolate lovers, there’s the Almond Joy, flavored with coconut milk, garnished with a geometric drizzle of Nutella and sprinkled with toasted almonds and coconut. 1022 W Burnside St. Unit O, @wailuashaveicepdx


Premium Matcha Cafe Maiko


Take iced tea to a whole new level with matcha shaved ice from this Japanese dessert chain. It starts with a shaved ice base flavored with matcha, topped with your choice of matcha, vanilla, or swirled soft serve, and finally garnished with shiratama (a type of mochi) and sweet adzuki beans. 3416 SE Cesar Chavez Blvd, @matchacafemaikopdx


Snow Bunny Coffee and Tea


This Pearl District cafe sells all kinds of midday pick-me-ups: Coava coffee, Korean citron honey tea, and bingsu, or Korean-style shaved ice. Back in the dine-in days, the ice would be served in a tall, mountainous, snow-like fluffy peak with a pitcher of condensed milk on the side, but the bingsu looks perfectly presentable in a to-go coffee cup, too. Choose from injeolmi— toasted soybean powder, slivered almond, and red bean—or strawberry or mango. 1415 NW 11th Ave, @snowbunnycoffee

Manoa Shave Ice


Over in Lake Oswego, this Hawaiian shave ice shop offers classic Hawaiian combos like rainbow shave ice (stripes of strawberry, banana, and blue coconut), POG (passion-orange-guava) as well as a house special, The Manoa (blue coconut and lychee). Topping choices are classic, for the most part—a snow cap of condensed milk, a sprinkling of li hing mui powder, or for a local touch, a scoop of Tillamook vanilla ice cream inside. Snag a few Hawaiian snacks to go with your shave ice, including hurricane popcorn (coated in crunchy mochi pieces and furikake) and li hing gummy bears. 333 S State St., Lake Oswego, @manoashaveice

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