Before bingsu or even ice kachang was invented, there was Japanese kakigori — yes, this lesser known icy dessert is actually the one that started it all.
Said to have existed in Japan since the 11th century, this surprisingly old shaved ice dessert was reserved as a luxury only for Japanese nobles.
Thankfully, kakigori is a lot more affordable now. Compared to bingsu, kakigori has a fluffier and smoother ice consistency and topped with delicious condensed milk. It may have the history, but is older really better? Let’s find out.
Here are eight places in Singapore to get Japanese kakigori, the father of all shaved ice desserts!
Japanese dessert parlour, Matchaya, is no stranger to Singapore’s dessert scene. Naturally, Matchaya has their range of Japanese kakigori to help you keep cool in Singapore. The kakigori was so fluffy that I thought I was eating snow!
Matchaya features frequent seasonal offerings such as this gorgeous Sakura Kakigori ($15.90), which was available in April 2018.
The pink half is a floral Japanese Sakura syrup, while the blue side is a sweeter Blue Hawaiian syrup that reminded me of the blue coral drinks you get at old-school bubble tea shops. However, the best part was the sakura espuma on top that was airy and creamy.
Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, my spoon dug out a surprise green centre; it turned out to be a matcha sauce with authentic tea flavour. The strong bitterness will definitely be a treat for all matcha-lovers.
While you might have to wait until next year to get Sakura Kakigori, Matchaya is always switching up their seasonal offerings. If you can’t wait, Matchaya serves Matcha ($14.90) and Houjicha ($14.90) Kakigori all year round.
Matchaya: 2 Handy Road, The Cathay, #01-08, Singapore 229233 | Tel: +65 9837 3187 | Opening Hours: (Mondays to Thursdays) 1pm – 10pm, (Fridays to Saturdays) 1pm – 10.30pm, Closed on Sundays| Outlets | Website | Facebook | Instagram
Another Japanese dessert shop that sells kakigori is matcha cafe, Tsujiri. Joining their range of matcha desserts is their shaved ice selection with authentic Japanese flavours.
You can get smaller one-person servings at Tsujiri to eat on the go. I recommend their Yuzu Shaved Ice ($4.80 for small, $7.20 for large). The ice was shaved very finely, perfect for soaking up the refreshing yuzu flavouring.
How great would it be to have this cooling cup of yuzu kakigori on a hot day? It even has anko (sweet red bean paste) for a sweeter flavour!
Tsujiri: 6 Eu Tong Sen Street, The Central, #01-74, Singapore 059817 | Tel: +65 6221 4282 | Opening Hours: (Sundays to Thursdays) 11am – 10pm, (Fridays, Saturdays & Public Holidays) 11am – 11pm | Outlets | Website | Facebook | Instagram
3. Tonkotsu Kazan Ramen
At Tonkotsu Kazan Ramen, you can now get traditional kakigori of volcanic proportions, which will easily satisfy three to four people at only half the price of a regular bingsu.
It’s time to face off against their Ice Kazan Matcha Shiratama ($8). Get your phones ready to snap your Instagram pics before the ‘fog’ dissipates.
While the matcha flavour could be stronger, the ice had a creamy texture from the generous amount of condensed milk. Plus points for the delicious azuki red bean paste on the side. If you find matcha a little conventional, there are also mango and strawberry flavours.
Do note that the kakigori is only available at their Liang Court outlet.
Tonkotsu Kazan Ramen: 177 River Valley Road, Liang Court, #01-10, Singapore 179030 | Tel: +65 6336 8698 | Opening Hours: (Sundays to Thursdays) 11am – 10.30pm, (Fridays & Saturdays) 11am – 3am | Outlets | Website | Facebook
4. Dolce Tokyo
If you have a sweet tooth, you must head to Japanese-Italian cafe Dolce Tokyo. There are a wide variety of desserts, but nothing beats their massive bowls of kakigori.
Dolce Tokyo has one of the largest ranges of kakigori in Singapore, so you’ll definitely be spoiled for choice!
Their Kinako Kakigori ($8) is served in a cold stone bowl, topped with Japanese soybean powder and Hokkaido red bean. With the ginormous portion perfect for two and a vanilla soft serve on top, this kakigori is definitely value-for-money.
True to its name “Dolce”, the kakigori had a strong caramel-like sweetness, that was a tad too sweet for me. Nonetheless, I really loved the generous addition of bouncy mochi that added chewiness to the kakigori.
Dolce Tokyo: 200 Victoria Street, Bugis Junction, #03-10h, Singapore 188021 | Tel: +65 6336 4808 | Opening Hours: (Mondays to Thursdays) 11.30am – 10pm, (Fridays to Sundays) 10.30am – 10pm | Website | Instagram
Ippudo has gained popularity for their signature ramen, but did you know you can get kakigori too? Aptly named Fujiyama Kakigori ($6.90), which translates to “Mount Fuji”, their kakigori is a generous mountain of shaved ice.
What makes Ippudo’s Fujiyama Kakigori really special is their cheesecake flavour! The ice shaving was a fluffy and airy blend of cheesecake and ice, which gave it a mildly sweet and tart cheese flavour.
If you dig deep enough, you will even unearth actual Ritz biscuits for a saltier and crunchier bite.
There are three kakigori toppings to choose from, namely, Strawberry Puree, Orange Puree and Blueberry Puree. Get a bit of puree with each spoonful for a refreshing tanginess to pair with the creamier shaved ice.
Do note that Ippudo’s Fujiyama Kakigori is currently available only at The Star Vista outlet.
Ippudo: 1 Vista Exchange Green, The Star Vista, #02-19, Singapore 138617 | Tel: +65 6734 1596 | Opening Hours: (Mondays to Saturdays) 11am – 10pm, (Sundays) 10.30am – 10pm | Outlets | Website | Facebook | Instagram
Some of the most eyebrow-raising flavours come from shabu-shabu restaurant Sakurazaka. They feature European flavours on top of the usual Green Tea. Think Tiramisu or even a bizarre Port Wine Kakigori!
As someone who loves tiramisu, the Tiramisu Kakigori ($14) was simply not to be missed. This beauty has some coffee ice cream and mascarpone espuma perched precariously atop the shaved ice. The bitter hints of espresso perfectly contrasted with the creamy sweetness of the mascarpone, which added complexity to the shaved ice.
Find out more in our full review of Sakurazaka.
7. MOF @ My Izakaya
For those who aren’t willing to travel too far for kakigori, you can get some a stone’s throw away from home! With five outlets across Singapore, casual Japanese eatery MOF @ My Izakaya features a range of the traditional dessert as well.
The Chocolate Kakigori ($7.90) is served with chocolate chips and a generous amount of decadent chocolate fudge. If you’re a chocolate lover like I am, go ahead and indulge!
The ice was shaved very finely to soak up all the gooey chocolate fudge. The almond flakes were also great for adding crunch to the dish.
What I really love about their kakigori range is that the sweetness level of each flavour is shown in the menu. Those hoping to cut back on sugar can check out their very popular Matcha Kakigori ($7.90) that is also the least sweet in the selection.
MOF @ My Izakaya: 21 Choa Chu Kang Ave 4, Lot 1, #03-12, Singapore 689812 | Tel: +65 6466 0312 | Opening Hours: (Sundays to Thursdays) 11.30am – 10pm, (Fridays & Saturdays) 11.30am – 10.30pm | Outlets | Website
8. Operation Dagger
If kakigori alone isn’t good enough, I’ve got something that might impress you. What do you say about a bizarre kakigori cocktail?
Sorry kids, Operation Dagger‘s Kakigori ($25) is adults-only! This innovative bar has taken it up a notch by transforming the Japanese shaved ice dessert into an elaborate cocktail.
Instead of using classic condensed milk, their alcoholic kakigori has white chocolate liqueur. Paired with distilled matcha, melon and fresh honey lemon, the drink was light, sweet and vibrant. There’s even a vanilla bean straw to give the kakigori cocktail an elegant finish!
Operation Dagger: 7 Ann Siang Hill, #B1-01, Singapore 069791 | Tel: +65 6438 4057 | Opening Hours: (Tuesdays to Saturdays) 6pm – 12midnight, Closed on Mondays & Sundays | Website | Facebook | Instagram
Move aside, bingsu! Big daddy kakigori is the new trend. So the next time you visit a Japanese dessert parlour, expand your dessert horizons by ordering kakigori instead.