This is Hawaii-- in a cup!
At the original hole-in-the-wall store
It seems the locals like to order a bowl of shave ice with azuki beans, mochi balls and condensed milk. Azuki beans are similar to the sweet monggo in halo-halo and mochi balls are like the malagkit balls in our ginataan. But the mochi balls here are big and tough compared to our nice soft malagkit balls. I didn't like it too much. You can also ask for a number of toppings like lilikoi (passionfruit) cream, snow cap (condensed milk) or li hing mui powder (red champuy powder).
The Kapahulu location is bigger and newer
Here's my coconut, lilikoi and watermelon---corny colors, but at least they're not clashing! Tastes very natural and tropical, even if I know it's artificially flavored.
The kids always enjoy their rainbow order--combination is chosen more for its colors rather than taste: strawberry, vanilla and banana. When they pour in the three primary colors, the secondary colors of purple, green and orange appear like magic, creating all the colors of the rainbow! It's a quick basic lesson on color theory.
Even if Obama didn't get his shave ice in Waiola on his trip here, there is an "Obama Rainbow" on the Waiola menu board. It's made of lemon-lime, cherry and lilikoi. Now if lemon-lime is yellow, that sounds more to me like an "Obama Sunset"!
The shave ice is as fine as newly-fallen snow, and is compacted down into a mound before syrup is poured on it. The texture is what makes the difference. I've tried the other shave ices around Waikiki and they're just like our ordinary snow cones with crushed ice--not smooth, finely-shaved ice. Even I can make those at home with my wonderful Divisoria-bought ice-crusher and my Tang or Eight-o-clock-based syrups. The only other place that has ice as fine as this, is the famous Matsumoto's on the North Shore. Okay, and maybe Aoki's, but it's also all the way on the other side of the island. I didn't get to try the place that Obama patronized, so I can't say if that has very fine ice too.
Waiola Shave Ice
2135 Waiola St. corner Paani Street
(off McCully St.)
3113 Mohikana Street
(off Kapahulu Blvd)