Food & Drink

How to stay cool with an unusual take on shaved ice

See how Vampire Penguin makes its shaved-ice creations

Vampire Penguin’s Taiwanese-style shaved ice has a snow-like consistency. The Sacramento chain has nine Northern California locations, including Elk Grove and Natomas.
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Vampire Penguin’s Taiwanese-style shaved ice has a snow-like consistency. The Sacramento chain has nine Northern California locations, including Elk Grove and Natomas.

In the heart of downtown Sacramento, people are cooling off this summer with Vampire Penguin’s take on shaved ice.

Vampire Penguin uses the Taiwanese approach to shaved ice. Their shaved ice, or “snow” as their employees call it, has an unexpected light and fluffy texture. Popular Taiwanese flavors are fruit based and often topped with mango. The shop branched out of fruit flavors to include flavors such as coffee and cotton candy.

“It’s doing very well,” said Krisanta Geslani, one of Vampire Penguin’s managers. “But the people who do have Taiwanese (shaved ice) know, they notice the difference of Vampire Penguin. … It’s very unique and different.”

Geslani said their product is different because of how they make it. It starts with mixing fruit concentrates, or other flavors, and non-dairy cream with water. The mixture is frozen for 24 hours. Then they shave their snow with a machine that attaches to the flavored ice slab. Fresh fruits, almonds or candy are added as toppings. The final touch: a drizzle of chocolate or strawberry syrup.

“The product isn’t shaved ice,” said Paolo San Luis, co-owner of Vampire Penguin. “It’s somewhere between shaved snow and ice cream. … It gives you the satisfaction of ice cream but it’s still water.”

Their snow and other desserts are vegan-friendly; most flavors do not have milk or eggs.

Vampire Penguin frequently adds new flavors and accepts recommendations from customers; Krisanta said they recently added a new peanut butter flavor based on customer requests.

San Luis said summer is busier for Vampire Penguin, and sales drop about 20 percent in the winter.

“Sacramento is very moody,” San Luis said. “One day is very hot, the next day is not,” San Luis said. “So it affects the emotion of our market since we’re such as a commodity.”

San Luis said the downtown store at 907 K St. had a surge in business when Golden 1 Center opened. Many downtown workers visit during their breaks, but the store is busiest during the dinner rush and weekends.

Vampire Penguin opened its first store in south Sacramento in 2013. They now have nine Northern California locations, including in Natomas and Elk Grove. The company plans to open five new stores later this year, with a Granite Bay location coming soon. There also are stores in Berkeley, Eureka, San Jose, Vacaville and Fresno.

Geslani said some of his customers’ favorites are Strawberry Cheesecake, Mexican Candy and Halo-Halo. Strawberry Cheesecake has strawberry and vanilla snow, topped with crushed graham crackers, strawberries, raspberries, and drizzled white chocolate and strawberry sauce. Mexican Candy features mango snow, topped with watermelons, caramel sauce, chamoy and chili powder. Halo-Halo is taro snow with munggo beans, white beans and a touch of flan, drizzled with condensed milk.

Calories range from 150 to 400 and the price from $4 to $9, depending on the show, flavor and size.

Nick Perez: 916-321-1553, @nickdnperez

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