Photograph by Misha Gravenor
Kogi BBQ truck cofounder Mark Manguera first fell in love with xue hua bing, the frozen delight known as snow ice, while taking his daughter for a chilly treat in the San Gabriel Valley. “The big bowls were such a nice break from the heat,” he says. Last fall Man-guera, who has a keen eye for trends, went from slinging kimchi quesadillas to experimenting with the popular Asian confection, opening Snow Monkey at the Westfield Topanga mall. That’s where he offers the ice—made by freezing fruit, guar gum (some places use milk), and water before machine-shaving the mixture ribbon thin—in flavors ranging from green tea and strawberry to nontraditional blends such as mint mojito, chipotle-mango, and red velvet.
“It’s similar to ice cream or gelato, but it’s also like shaved ice,” says Manguera of the dessert, which originated in Taiwan. Until recently it was difficult to find snow ice outside such Taiwanese enclaves as Rowland Heights, where Class 302 tops it with chewy mochi, sweetened red beans, or a drizzle of condensed milk. But Asian Americans who grew up with snow ice have slowly been introducing it west of the San Gabriel Valley.
Childhood friends Alex Liu, Alex Yu, and Evan Lew opened Blockheads Shavery two years ago in the Little Osaka neighborhood off Sawtelle, adorning their desserts with all-American cavity inducers like Oreos and peanut butter cups. More recently SnoBar opened in West Hollywood. The signage at the Pink-berry-esque space promotes snow ice’s figure-friendly attributes: less sugar and fewer calories than frozen yogurt. Owner Davis Shu shows a penchant for the floral; his snow is flavored with rose water or osmanthus, an Asian plant that also goes by the name sweet olive.
“We have customers asking about Snow Monkey’s next flavor before we’ve even created it,” says Manguera. “I think this has the potential to really blow up.”
Where to Get It:
11311 Mississippi Ave.,West L.A., 310-445-8725
1015 Nogales St., Rowland Heights, 626-965-5809
8717 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, 323-596-7766
6600 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Canoga Park, 818-888-8092