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In almost every city and town in Arkansas, you’ll find an oasis in the heat: a shaved ice stand. You can usually find them near the middle of town, and on a summer day, you’ll find a crowd gathering to get their very own treat. Just like ordering fancy coffee makes some people anxious, the variety of choices and the lingo at a snow cone stand can do the same. If you’ve wondered what the offerings are at your local shaved ice stand, we are here to decipher your options.
Let’s start with a little history lesson. This treat has roots deep in Japan, dating back to 800 A.D. In Japan it’s called “kakigori,” originally made by bringing ice down from the mountains. Of course, with that much effort, it was a treat for the royalty. It became more widespread in the late 1800s and was brought to Hawaii in the 1920s by immigrant sugar plantation workers. On a 90-degree day, I’m sure glad they shared this sweet treat with us.
When you step up to the stand, you will find one of two delicacies: shaved ice or snow cones. Shaved ice is made up of smaller granules, more on par with fine snow. It’s fluffy and light. Snow cones are made up of larger pieces of ice and provide a crunchier mouth feel. Both are typically topped with a sweet syrup.
Choose a Size
The size options will vary from stand to stand, but you’ll usually find options in some form of small, medium and large. Most stands will overfill your cup with a ball or cone on top, so if you don’t want the hassle of that, you can order a small in a medium cup, which will keep the contents of your shaved ice entirely in the container.
More Than 31 Flavors
Your next choice after size is flavor. Depending on where you are, you may have a few choices or hundreds. You’ll find many self-explanatory popular flavors: cherry, grape, coconut and root beer. However, there are a few popular flavors that will have you wondering, “What does that taste like?” While each stand may make their own flavor mixes, these are typically what you’ll find for these common shaved ice flavors:
If you can’t decide on one flavor, most stands can create a rainbow of two or three flavors or mix multiple flavors. A mix would be all the flavors over the entire shaved ice, where a rainbow would be like Neapolitan ice cream with stripes of each flavor.
Customize Your Shaved Ice
Beyond choosing a flavor, you may have options to add other things to your cup. Depending on what your local stand offers, you could find many things to add:
Other Options for Your Snow Cone
There are a couple other things to consider when ordering your shaved ice. The first is color. If you’re a messy eater, ordering for a child, or if you want to avoid a mouth full of color, think about the color of the syrup. Many places will have designations on their menu for clear flavors, so you can enjoy your treat mess-free.
You may also have the option for spoons or straws to enjoy your shaved ice. I recommend choosing both. I think the spoon is helpful for the beginning of your snow cone, but as it melts and you get to more of the syrup at the bottom of the cup, a straw can be handy. And be sure to grab plenty of napkins!
What is your go-to shaved ice order? Or maybe your summer challenge is trying a new flavor each time you visit? Let us know your favorites!
Photos courtesy of The Little Red Caboose shaved ice stand in Fort Smith.
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