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Hawaiian Eats. The Real Shaved-Ice Story.

Have you ever had a hawaiian shaved ice?  I’m not talking about a snow cone or a shaved ice you can get from the donut shop down the street or at the county fair, I’m talking about a real HAWAIIAN shaved ice.  Yes, there is a difference and it is huge.  Before visiting the island of Oahu, I thought I knew what shaved ice was; dyed sugar water on a snowball served in a flimsy paper cone.  This is a snow cone, the inferior hillbilly cousin to the hawaiian shaved ice.  Snow cones are nice when it’s 115′ outside at a 4th of July event and you can’t have a beer.  They are offered in a myriad of flavors ranging from bubble gum to the exotic tiger’s blood, which I’m still unsure what flavor that is supposed to be, but still nice.  But that is where snow cones stop when it comes to a refreshing snack; they are just nice, nothing less and nothing more.

There are many places in Oahu that sell shaved ice, but we only tried two.  These two were reported by others to be the best on the island so we had to check them out.  First up was Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha near Honolulu.  This place was amazing.  Not only were the shaved ice outstanding, I’ll get to that in a bit, but the service was top notch.  Never in my life have I been treated like I was invaluable to the success or failure of a business.  Uncle Clay, pictured below with my lovely wife and dear mother, personally greeted us upon arrival and continued to visit with us as we enjoyed his delicacies. I’ve been to tons of restaurants, bars, hotels, car dealerships and friends houses that all claim to treat you like family. They all fail miserably when compared to the hospitality exhibited by Uncle Clay.  He doesn’t just treat you like family, he adopts you.  He accepts you into his ohana, family, and you stay there until you walk out the door.

The shaved ice I had is pictured below, left.  It was pineapple and coconut flavors with fresh pineapple chunks and shaved coconut on top.  It was also drenched in a sweetened condensed milk concoction that Uncle Clay has dubbed “dream sauce”.  Below right is another shaved ice with dream sauce and strawberry and lilikoi flavors.  They were both amazing.  All flavors are made with real fruit locally sourced, and it is this, I think, that makes these things so damn good.  Sweet, refreshing and delicious without making you feel like a gluttonous pig for all the sugar you just consumed.

I gave her a bite and she liked it so much that she got pissed when I took a bite!

The other shaved ice place we tried was Matsumoto’s, on the north shore of Oahu.  Matsumoto’s is hailed by many as the best.  When we were there, there was a line out the door, a good sign you are at a great place.  My wife and I both got the “Hawaiian” variety that consisted of pineapple, coconut and banana, plus condensed milk sauce.  Although the shaved ice was good, it was not the best.  I couldn’t even tell which flavor was which color and I watched the guy pour the stuff on.  Was the pineapple the blue or the pink? One almost redeeming feature was the straw they give you to help drink up the milk and melted stuff because you aint scooping any good bites into your mouth with those crap wooden tongue depressors they try to pass off as spoons.  Long story short, Motsumoto’s is good, but Uncle Clay’s is great.

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