Cool off with an international tour of shaved ice options — without leaving Charlotte

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Photo by Tom Hanchett
Fresh strawberries top off this shaved ice at Hong Kong Bakery inside Super G Mart.

Does summer heat give you a hankering for the cold syrup-soaked wonderfulness of a snow cone? You can line up at one of the dozen or so Pelican Snowball franchises around the Charlotte metro, of course. But how about stepping out for a global shaved ice adventure?

Food historians think shaved ice originated in ancient China, where the treat is known as bing soo. So let’s start our tour with an Asian eatery.

Shaved ice is a big deal at Hong Kong Bakery, located inside the huge Super G Mart international grocery at 7323 E. Independence Blvd. Choose from a list of more than 30 toppings. I got fresh strawberries and pineapple gummies, then added condensed milk plus red bean paste, two sweet comfort-food flavors often found in Asian cuisine.

Photo by Tom Hanchett
Pho Huong Que, located at 7211 E. Independence Boulevard in the same shopping center as Super G Mart.

Vietnam has its own shaved ice tradition, which you can find at Pho Huong Que in the same shopping plaza as Super G. Chè ba màu means three-color dessert. A tall soda-fountain glass arrives with layers of green, red and white. Green is pandan, sort of like Jello cubes. Red are those sweet red beans again. And the white is mung-bean syrup at the bottom and shaved ice with coconut milk at the top. I thought all that might taste odd. But when I reached my long-handled spoon down through the layers, mixing bits from one and another, I found I really liked it.

Photo by Tom Hanchett
The Pahang family from the Philippines own Bachi. From left to right: Levi, Carlito, Nathan and Leslie. Nathan holds the halo-halo, complete with a scoop of purple yam ice cream.

The shaved ice of the Philippines is called halo-halo. “That means mix-mix,” says Leslie Pahang, whose family owns Bachi at 200 W. Mallard Creek Road. Here, the tall soda-fountain glass is layered with jackfruit, red beans, coconut jelly and shaved ice drenched with condensed and evaporated milk. On top, a purple scoop of yam ice cream, a Filipino favorite. “And a cube of my mom’s homemade flan,” Pahang says with pride.

In Mexico, shaved ice goes by the name “raspados.” Let’s end our tour at brand-new Raspados Jalisco at 5015 N. Tryon St. near Sugar Creek. Ice plus syrup is the simple recipe here. But the syrup flavors include Mexican favorites. I got mango — with fresh mango pulp, I think — plus good ol’ familiar strawberry.

Hong Kong Bakery

Hours: 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Sunday.
Location: Inside Super G Mart, 7323 E. Independence Blvd.
Details: 980-321-7283.

Pho Huong Que

Hours: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday. Closed Thursday.
Location: 7211 E. Independence Blvd.
Details: 704-536-0401; www.pho-huong-que.com.

Bachi

Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday, noon-10 p.m. Saturday and noon-9 p.m. Sunday.
Location: 200 W. Mallard Creek Church Road, #200.
Details: 980-819-7761; www.bachiclt.com.

Raspados Jalisco

Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Sunday.
Location: 5015 N. Tryon St., #120.

This article originally appeared in The Charlotte Observer.

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