It's called Xue-Hua-Bing or snow ice. They have four flavors at a time and when we were there, they had original (milk flavored), mango, strawberry and green tea snow. We opted for the green tea. It's a block of flavored ice that they put into this machine. We wanted to see if we could get samples of the flavors, but because they use different blocks of ice, they weren't able to provide any samples.
You can see the slivers of ice being shaved below from that block of green tea ice.
After you pick your snow ice flavor, you get to choose a drizzle and one topping. I think a small size was about $4 and a regular size was about $5. Each additional topping is $0.69.
Here was our finished product. We got green tea snow with condensed milk and red bean.
Here's a close up of the snow. You will notice that it looks in fact like snow. It's thin ripples of thinly shaved ice. When you put it in your mouth, it tastes like flaky crust that dissipates quickly in your mouth.
Beware, you need to eat this fast because as you can see, while it looks big, there's a lot of air in this so it collapses pretty quickly.
This totally reminds me of Korean patbingsoo but with limited toppings. Mary and I got a kick out of watching some of the customers, who clearly have not had asian shaved ice before. There was one guy who literally added 5 different types of fruit and other toppings to his snow ice. Because of the height of the snow ice, there's not much surface area for all these toppings to even go. The girl who was at the counter kept asking, are you sure you want another topping, it's an extra $0.69 per topping. He reassured her that it was OK. I think he ended up paying almost $10 for his snow ice, which is a little crazy, if you ask me. Now if you were at a Korean place, you'd most likely get mixed fruit, mochi, red bean, condensed milk and even some fruity pebbles for well less than $10.
I think the snow ice concept is great and I can see this really taking off in Chicago and elsewhere. They tout this as being low in calories and light, but it's almost too airy. It's not very satisfying because it dissipates so quickly in your mouth the moment it lands on your tongue. But it is a nice change for those looking for something besides the usual ice cream, gelato and froyo. Mary and I definitely enjoyed it, but would I pay $5 for this on a regular basis? ... probably not.
604 W Belmont Ave
(between Broadway St & Orchard St)
Chicago, IL 60657