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Recently, Meg, one of our RocketNews24 colleagues from our Japanese-language sister site, came to us raving about a great dessert she’d just tried. Since we’re always thinking about food, we were happy to listen as she gushed. “It’s called yakigori,” she informed us, “and people have been making it in Japan for over 100 years!”

“Oh, you mean, kakigori, right?” we responded, mentioning the Japanese word for shaved ice. “Yeah, we have that overseas, too. By the way, you should really take some medicine for that cold.”

“No, not kakigori, yakigori,” Meg insisted. To help us understand, she even wrote it down in Japanese. We read the kanji characters, 焼き氷, once, then double checked it. There was no mistake, though. Meg was talking about a dessert named “roasted ice.”

When Meg told us she knew a way to set solidified water on fire, we were faced with the difficult dilemma of having to choose between calling her a liar and a witch, and we’ve already established our skepticism regarding the supernatural. We’re far too polite to call someone a liar to their face, but at the same time, we told Meg we’d need some proof that this was more than just some half-baked dessert-based chicanery.

We asked for an explanation, and Meg did us one better by producing both a recipe and demonstration.

100 ml (3.5 oz.) strong coffee
80 g (2.8 oz.) sugar (to be used in making coffee syrup)
plum syrup
1 egg white
1 teaspoon sugar (to be used in making merengue)
1 tablespoon brandy
1 block of ice

Step 1

Mix the coffee and sugar together to make coffee syrup. Place it in the refrigerator to chill, along with the plum syrup.

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The kind of plum the recipe calls for are called ume in Japanese, and are somewhere between an ordinary plum and an apricot. Unfortunately, ume syrup can be a little hard to get your hands on overseas. As a matter of fact, we couldn’t even find any here in Tokyo since the fruit is out of season right now.

Instead, you can do what we did and substitute umeshu, Japanese-style plum wine that you can track down in Asian specialty markets. We took about 200 ml (7 oz.) of the stuff and boiled it down to get rid of the alcohol, then added a little sugar to give it a little more sweetness and stickier consistency.

Step 2

Mix the egg whites and sugar, giving yourself some fluffy merengue.

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Step 3

Grab as much ice as you want, and start shaving away.

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Once you’ve got enough shaved ice, grab your syrups from the fridge. Pour half of the plum syrup into the serving bowl, and cover it with a layer of half the ice. Pour the rest of the plum syrup over that, then top it with the remaining ice. Now, add the coffee syrup, and crown the whole thing with the merengue.

▼ It should end up looking like this.

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Step 4

Finally, drizzle the brandy over the whole thing, and light your dessert on fire!

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While you could use a lighter, Meg recommends striking a match for a touch of old school class. Also, igniting the brandy can be trickier than it seems. For her first time making yakigori, Meg topped the dish with confectionary-use brandy with a lower than normal alcohol content of 39%. This proved hard to light in the quantity the recipe calls for, but simply adding more brandy will turn the elegant dessert into a soggy mess. Meg had better luck with 114-proof brandy, and we’re happy that after years of testing the theory at every opportunity, more alcohol is finally the solution for something.

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Once the flame burns itself out, it’s time to dig in. The finished product has a complex, sophisticated flavor, bringing together the bitterness of the coffee, sweetness tinged with sour notes of the plum syrup, and unmistakable fragrance of the brandy.

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By the way, once you’ve opened the bottle, you may feel obligated to drink whatever brandy you don’t use for the dessert, and we won’t dissuade you from this endeavor. However, we strongly recommend saving the spirits for after you’re finished lighting things on fire, for the sake of safety.

We also recommend swirling your brandy in the glass, but that’s just because it looks cool.

Recipe: NHK
Photos: RocketNews24
[ Read in Japanese ]