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Shaved Ice Recipe (Nam Kang Sai)

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This homemade shaved ice recipe, or nam kang sai, is easy and budget-friendly, and it’s the best ice cream alternative to cool you down during hot summer days. Serve it with lots of delicious colorful toppings and flavors!

Thai shaved ice dessert topped with fresh mango, grass jelly, toasted bread, Sala syrup, and atap fruit.

Nam kang sai the go-to for many Thai kids to cool off hot days – it’s cheap, delicious, and versatile. Just like Thai tea and lod chong, you can find this favorite at many food markets.

I turned my crushed ice into shaved ice in a blender. If you have a shaved ice machine, you can just use that and then top if off with one of the many topping ideas coming up!

What is shaved ice

Shaved ice is a refreshing treat made from finely shaved ice, topped with sweet syrups, fruits, and sometimes ice cream. It’s a light dessert perfect for cooling down on a hot day.


In some parts of the West, it’s known as snow cones or snow balls. In Thailand, we call it nam kang sai. Nam kang is Thai for ice, and sai is shaved.

You can find it at many food markets in Thailand, and it usually goes for about 20 Baht in the rural areas, which is only around 50 cents.

Nam kang sai

Making this shaved ice cream recipe is super fun! First, you shave ice until it’s soft. A shaved ice maker is handy, but it’s not a must-have.

Next, you top it off with all sorts of sweet things. I go all out with lots of Sala syrup and ripe mango, and I’m not shy for adding some more syrup halfway through the dessert!

Close-up of Thai shaved ice dessert with mango, grass jelly, Sala syrup, and fruit.

There’s a whole world of fruit and jelly toppings to choose from, so just customize it to your taste. Plus, I throw in some toasted bread – my husband said it’s funny, but it’s a standard here in Thailand.

That’s what I love most about this Thai dessert, there are no rules, and it’s so versatile and so, so good. Feel free to top it with your favorite fruits, like bananas or young coconut meat. There’s no wrong way to enjoy it.

And don’t forget, Thai food is all about sharing with friends and family. Make a big bowl of nam kang sai with the kids and share it together!

Shaved ice syrup

In Thailand, Sala syrup by Hales Blue Boy is the go-to choice for shaved ice syrup. It’s also popular for making nom yen. It adds a unique, sweet flavor that’s just perfect.

Hand holding a bottle of Sala syrup.

There’s a rainbow of flavored syrups available, so just grab your favorite – blue raspberry and Sala syrup are delicious. And you don’t have to stick to the Blue Boy Brand, anything goes here!

Ingredients

Ingredients can be sourced at Asian grocery stores and Asian markets.
The exact measurements are in the recipe card at the end of this post.


Ingredients for Thai shaved ice dessert labeled: Sala syrup, mango, sweetened condensed milk, grass jelly, atap fruit, evaporated milk, and crushed ice.

Must-haves

  • Shaved ice – To make shaved ice without a machine, place crushed ice in a sealed plastic bag and crush it with a rolling pin or pestle. If you have a good processor, you can use that to make shaved ice.
  • Flavored syrup – I used Sala Syrup by Hales Blue Boy. You can use any brand of flavored syrup and any flavor you like.

Toppings (optional)

  • Sweetened condensed milk – Has a thick consistency that adds a sweet creaminess.
  • Evaporated milk – A light, unsweetened milk that brings more creaminess.
  • Toasted bread – Adds a delicious crunchy texture. You can also use croutons.
  • Grass jelly – Grass jelly is a jelly dessert made from the extract of the Mesona chinensis plant. You can find it at Asian grocery stores and Asian markets. It’s a delicious topping for this shaved ice recipe.
  • Atap fruit – These are small and translucent with a jelly-like texture, adding sweetness and a fun bite.

How to make shaved ice dessert

Step 1: Use your shaved ice machine to make shaved ice, or place crushed ice in a sealed plastic bag and crush it with a rolling pin or pestle. If you have a good processor, you can use that to make shaved ice. Transfer the shaved ice to a serving bowl.

Step 2: Drizzle your favorite flavored syrup over the ice.

Step 3: Swirl coconut milk and sweetened condensed milk over the top.

Step 4: Add toppings of your choice – fruits, jelly cubes, toasted broad, you name it. Enjoy!

Kitchenware

  • Cutting board and a sharp knife if you’re using fruits as toppings
  • Saucepan if you’re making sugar syrup yourself
  • Ice shaver or food processor / rolling pin

Flavor ideas

In Thailand, shaved ice flavors and colors are endless. At food markets, the most popular syrup for it is Sala syrup by Blue Boy Brand. Here’s a list of different options so you can make your shaved ice dessert just how you like it:

Flavored syrups: Blue raspberry, Sala, strawberry, lychee, chocolate, orange, coconut, banana, mint, …

Fresh fruits: Add ripe mango, strawberry, jackfruit, pineapple, dragonfruit, raspberry, …

Ice cream: You can add a scoop of ice cream, like coconut, strawberry, and vanilla ice.

Milk: Top your bowl with some fresh milk, condensed milk, or coconut milk. You can even add whipped cream.

More toppings: Try adding red beans, grass jelly, chocolate chips, pre-soaked basil seeds, soda like cola, candy, and nuts.

Frequently asked questions

How many calories are in shaved ice?

Shaved ice typically has very few calories on its own, but adding syrups or toppings will increase the calorie count.

Where did shaved ice originate?

Shaved ice originated in Asia, with historical roots in both Japan and China.

Where can I buy a shaved ice machine?

You can buy a shaved ice machine online from retailers like Amazon or at specialty kitchen stores.

Do I need a machine?

No, I don’t have one either! You can use a blender or food processor to crush ice finely.

Authentic Thai dessert recipes

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Shaved Ice Recipe (Nam Kang Sai)

Thai shaved ice dessert topped with fresh mango, grass jelly, toasted bread, Sala syrup, and atap fruit.
An easy recipe for Thai shaved ice, or nam kang sai. Serve it with one of the many sweet topping options included.
Praew
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Cuisine Thai
Course Dessert
Serving Size 1

Ingredients

MUST-HAVES

  • shaved ice add to taste
  • flavored syrup see notes, add to taste

TOPPINGS (OPTIONAL)

  • sweetened condensed milk add to taste
  • evaporated milk add to taste
  • toasted bread add to taste
  • grass jelly add to taste
  • atap fruit add to taste

Instructions

  • Use your shaved ice machine to make shaved ice, or place crushed ice in a sealed plastic bag and crush it with a rolling pin or pestle. If you have a good processor, you can use that to make shaved ice. Transfer the shaved ice to a serving bowl.
  • Drizzle your favorite flavored syrup over the ice.
  • Swirl coconut milk and sweetened condensed milk over the top.
  • Add toppings of your choice – fruits, jelly cubes, toasted broad, you name it. Enjoy!

Notes

  • Use the nutrition card in this recipe as a guideline.
  • Finish your dessert with as much syrup, fruits, toppings, and sweets as you like.
  • Flavored syrup - I used Sala Syrup by Hales Blue Boy. You can use any brand of flavored syrup and any flavor you like.
  • Shaved ice - To make shaved ice without a machine, place crushed ice in a sealed plastic bag and crush it with a rolling pin or pestle. If you have a good processor, you can use that to make shaved ice.

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