Kakigori: This Summer’s Star Dessert


WordsClémence Leleu


Luxury Berthillon ice cream cornets and the regressive dame blanche are a thing of the past: the ice cream everyone will be talking about this summer comes from Japan, and goes by the name of kakigori.

Behind this Japanese name lies a cross between ice cream and granita. Its finely shaved ice transforms into an airy dessert and is then covered in syrup. It’s an unbelievably simple dessert, and there’s nothing else like it to cool you down in the summer heat.

Be aware, however, that behind its seeming sobriety lie some subtleties. This isn’t crushed or mixed ice. Kakigori is made from a slab of ice which has been finely shaved (in fact, the English translation is shaved ice) using a mechanical ice shaver. It turns the giant ice cube into tiny flakes, inside which hides the key to success for this sweet treat.

This perfect summer dessert, which made its way to France a few months ago, actually has ancestral origins, as it is claimed to have been invented during the Heian period (794-1185). Back then, people used ice that was brought down from the Japanese mountains and into towns, before serving and flavouring the ice and serving it to the nobles of the period.


From high tables to street food stalls

Kakigori then gained in popularity over the years, and it can now be found on yatai, little Japanese street food stalls, as well as on restaurant tables and in the finest tea houses. Not to mention its growing success on Instagram, where the word kakigori has been hashtagged in almost 150,000 posts, each one more colourful than the last.

Although the base of the recipe remains the same, the ingredients used for the topping vary. Purists cover it with matcha tea syrup and red azuki, the beans that can be found in many different Japanese desserts; in this form, it takes the name Ujikintoki. However, those after a more indulgent dessert prefer the Shirokuma, which is topped with syrup made from mochi, little sticky rice cakes, and condensed milk or even whipped cream!


Enjoy a kakigori in France

So, where can you find the best kakigori in Paris? Chef Pierre Hermé gives them pride of place at Le Royal Monceau’s Bar Long, but the Parisian institute is without question Toraya, a Japanese tea house which has been including them on its summer menu for over 30 years. A special mention should also go to L’Hexagone Café, a coffee shop situated in the 14th arrondissement. Freshly prepared in front of the amazed customers, the kakigori are made here using a machine that the owners imported from Japan. To have a taste, you’ll need to keep an eye on the coffee shop’s Instagram account where, at the start of each week, they announce the coming dates when this star dessert will be served. Outside of the capital, head to Montpellier or La Grande-Motte, where Koori will delight lovers of Japanese desserts.