The iciest treat in town may be Shau May's Taiwanese slush. This small Chinese restaurant in Alhambra is named for a leading ice cream company in Taipei. The slush is a sort of Chinese sundae, except that a pyramid of finely shaved ice replaces the ice cream, and the "toppings" go on the bottom.
These goodies are far removed from the nuts, cherries and whipped cream of the usual American sundae. Take your choice of sweet red or green beans, cooked oats, taro, boiled peanuts and tapioca pearls. Then move on to exotic jellies such as pale almond curd, dark grass jelly and shimmery, pale-yellow ai yu jelly, which Shau May has retitled "love jade." Fruits include longans and lychees along with peaches, pineapple and fruit cocktail.
The woman behind the counter spoons your choices into a shallow dish, showers them with ice from a tall grinder and sweetens them with a ladle of syrup. For an extra 25 cents, she'll swirl condensed milk over the top.
Shau May offers about 16 toppings, but owner-manager Charles Hu says you can find as many as 100 in Taiwan--although not usually all in the same place.
In Taiwan, this cool sweet is available all year, although its popularity increases in the summer. Its Chinese name, pao bin , means shaved ice. There is also a variation called honey bean ice, which consists of yellow beans cooked in honey or syrup and combined with fruits and ice.
How would a Taiwanese compose a slush? Customer Carol Cho, a Taipei native working in Los Angeles, was spooning up a combination of red beans, oats, taro and rice balls. Another of her favorites is green beans, peanuts and rice balls or tapioca. The novice could ease into these exotic substances by combining red beans and almond curd with peaches and fruit cocktail. Pineapple, lychees and grass jelly is another possibility. And Asians sometimes opt for a simple dish of red beans, condensed milk and ice.
Shau May gives customers a choice of any three "toppings" for $1.50 or four for $1.75. Open daily from 11 a.m. to midnight, the restaurant is located at 15 E. Valley Blvd., next to the Garfield Theater.
If you can't get there, it's easy to make a Taiwanese slush at home. Pick up the common canned fruits in a supermarket, then go to a Chinese market for cans of longans, lychees, ai yu and grass jellies. Some markets even carry dry mixes for almond curd. The crucial equipment is an ice shaver that will produce fine, snow-like ice rather than granules. These are available in some Asian markets.
The following recipe suggests suitable canned toppings and provides instructions for cooking the beans, making almond curd and sugar syrup. Place the ingredients in separate bowls, let guests make a choice, then pile on plenty of ice, add the syrup and milk. It's a formula guaranteed to send shivers up your spine.
1 (1-pound 4-ounce) can fruit cocktail
1 (1-pound) can sliced peaches
1 (1-pound 4-ounce) can pineapple chunks
1 (1-pound 4-ounce) can lychees
1 (1-pound 4-ounce) can longans
Sweet Red Beans
Sweet Green Beans
Cooked pearl tapioca
1 (1-pound 3-ounce) can grass jelly, drained and cut into cubes
1 (1-pound 3-ounce) can ai yu jelly (Chinese lemon jelly), drained and cut into cubes
Finely shaved ice
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
Drain fruit cocktail, peaches, pineapple chunks, lychees and longans and place in separate containers. Arrange red beans, green beans, tapioca, grass jelly, ai yu jelly and Almond Curd in separate containers.
To assemble, place choice of ingredients in large, shallow bowl. Top with generous amount of shaved ice. Sprinkle with 1 to 2 tablespoons Sugar Syrup. Pierce 2 holes close together in one side of top of condensed milk can and one hole in other side to admit air. Pour milk from 2 holes, forming spiral pattern on shaved ice. Serve at once.
Sweet Red Beans
1 cup small red beans
1/2 cup sugar
Wash beans thoroughly. Turn into large saucepan and add 3 cups water. Bring to boil, then lower heat and simmer 2 hours, adding more water as needed to keep beans covered. Add sugar and simmer 1 hour longer.
Add just enough water to keep beans from drying out. When done, most water should be absorbed. Beans will be pasty but retain their shape. Makes generous 2 cups.
Sweet Green Beans
1 cup whole mung beans
Wash beans thoroughly. Place in saucepan and add water to cover generously. Bring to boil, turn heat off and let stand 1 hour. Drain.
Add 3 cups water to beans and bring to boil. Simmer 2 hours, adding more water as needed to keep beans covered. Add sugar and simmer 1 hour longer, or until beans are tender but retain their shape. Add just enough water to keep beans from drying out. Most water should be absorbed when beans are done. Makes 2 cups.
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups milk, scalded
1 teaspoon almond extract
Soften gelatin in water. Scald milk. Stir in sugar, then stir in gelatin until dissolved. Add almond extract. Pour mixture into 9x5-inch loaf pan and chill until set. Cut into cubes. Makes about 2 cups cubes.
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
Combine sugar and water in small saucepan. Bring to boil and boil until clear. Cool before using. Makes about 1 cup.