It’s not often that you find a dessert that can give you a brain freeze and third-degree burns, so we had to try it for ourselves.
For generations, one of Japan’s favorite ways to cool off in the summer is by eating a nice bowl of shaved ice. Similarly, for generations the flavors of syrup restaurants offer for shaved ice have been pretty standard, with sweet fruit flavors like strawberry, lemon, and melon being the norm.
But as its very name indicates, no matter what sort of crazy toppings you use, you can still call a dish shaved ice as long as it’s got flakes of frozen H20 at the bottom. Our intrepid Japanese-language reporter Mr. Sato, who recently dined on corn and gyoza pot sticker shaved ice, knows this all too well. But while those shocking experiences were previously unimaginable, Mr. Sato also found a restaurant offering shaved ice with a topping that should be impossible: fire.
His eyes weren’t playing tricks on him, either. While shaved ice is called kakigori in Japanese, the menu board of Boco, a cafe three minutes on foot from Asaka Station in Saitama Prefecture, identifies this flaming, and presumably edible, substance as yakigori, or “flamed ice.”
Now as some of you may recall, Mr. Sato doesn’t always have the firmest grasp on how science works. Still, even he knows that fire and ice generally can’t coexist. Intrigued, and also hungry, he walked through the door of Boco, took a seat, and looked over the menu. Flipping past the selection of Western and Asian dishes, he came to the shaved ice listings, which included such uorthodox options as caramel banana, rich Earl Gray tea, and strawberry tiramisu.
But like a proverbial moth drawn to a literal flame, Mr. Sato asked his server for the 1,200-yen (US$11) flamed ice and soon after, the waiter brought the dessert on a tray.
Mr. Sato was a little surprised by the dish’s appearance. While some deluxe shaved ice in Japan comes topped with condensed milk, the flamed ice was covered entirely in meringue. Also, it wasn’t flaming.
However, that changed soon enough, as the waiter returned to Mr. Sato’s table holding a small ceramic pot on a long handle.
A sweet smell and heat were both emanating from the vessel. After asking Mr. Sato to lean back, the waiter held the pot over the pile of meringue-covered shaved ice, twisted his wrist, and the scene shown in the video below played out.
As the sweet smell intensified, blue flames enveloped Mr. Sato’s dessert. After waiting for the flames to die down, he grabbed his spoon and took a bite of the meringue, at which point he could finally place the aroma: rum.
Boco’s flamed ice is prepared flambé-style, with flaming rum poured over the meringue to sear the outer layer. The post-fire meringue is tasty enough to be a dessert all by itself, but nonetheless Mr. Sato was worried that perhaps the intense heat had melted the shaved ice, and would leave him with just a puddle of water at the bottom of the dish.
Thankfully, those fears turned out to be unnecessary, as Mr. Sato’s precious little snowflakes were doing just fine, since the meringue is thick enough to shield them from the momentary heat.
As he happily continued digging, our reporter unearthed another treasure, as he struck a pocket of strawberry syrup. Mixing the soft, rum-seared meringue, smoothly crunchy shaved ice, and sweet syrup all into the same spoonful created an immensely satisfying harmony, and things got even better when Mr. Sato added the condensed milk and caramel sauces which are served on the side with the flamed ice.
With its dynamic visuals, enticing aroma, harmonious flavors, and intriguing textures, Mr. Sato declared the flamed ice “comprehensive entertainment” and a dessert that “stimulates all five senses.” We’re a bit confused by that last part, since his report fails to mention any audio component to the meal, so all we can assume is that as he ate it, he heard angels singing.
Boco / ボコ
Address: Saitama-ken, Asaka-shi, Honcho 2-4-7, Shimizu Building 2 1st floor
埼玉県朝霞市本町2-4-7 清水ビル2 1F
Open 11:30 a.m.-midnight
Shaved ice served until 5 p.m.
[ Read in Japanese ]