The Grilled Ice Cube Street Food Taking Over The Internet

ice cubes
ice cubes - Nicholas Free/Getty Images

Nestled within the vibrant tapestry of Changsha's night market in China's Hunan Province, the unorthodox snack of grilled ice cubes has been captivating adventurous visitors. This street food phenomenon has taken the local scene by storm, turning seemingly mundane ice into a delectable treat that harmonizes contrasting elements.

Priced at just $2 (or ¥15), the grilled ice cubes aren't just a respite from the market's hustle and bustle; they're a testament to the innovative spirit of Chinese street cuisine. The process begins with ordinary ice cubes, which are placed over an open flame and transformed into gems through a meticulous barbecue ritual. The result is unexpected: a hot and smoky exterior encasing a core of cool, refreshing ice.

The magic, however, doesn't stop at the temperature paradox. What truly elevates the dish is the flavors that dance on the palate with each bite. The ice cubes are coated with oil and generously seasoned with a unique spice blend comprised of fiery chili powder, earthy ground cumin, aromatic chopped scallions, and fragrant coriander. A variety of sauces can be added to the mix to further enhance the flavor profile. Tangy soy sauce, umami-rich oyster sauce, and a hint of sesame oil create a luscious glaze that somehow, by the laws of chemistry and physics, clings to the ice.

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Grilled Ice Cubes Are Melting Hearts

Person making grilled ice cubes
Person making grilled ice cubes - @rainbriy781/TikTok

The grilled ice cubes, which are served in a small cardboard tray, can be eaten with a spoon or chopsticks. The latter method adds an extra layer of novelty, as diners navigate the delicate balance between the melting ice and the robust spices. The sensory journey engages both the taste buds and the dexterity of the hands.

Comments on a TikTok video from user @cathychen95, who explained the dish, were mostly confused. "But does the ice melt?" one user questioned, while others called the snack "the dumbest thing [they'd] ever seen" and "a salty snow cone." Some, however, admitted they wouldn't mind a taste; one user simply said, "Why does it look so good[?]"

The uniqueness of this hot-meets-cold dish lies not only in its curious combination of ingredients but also in its ability to challenge preconceived notions about what street food can be. It transcends the boundaries of tradition, infusing a ubiquitous, seemingly basic element with complex flavors and the artistry of presentation. In a city renowned for its culinary prowess, the grilled ice cubes stand out as a testament to the innovation and creativity on display at Changsha's night market.

Read the original article on Mashed.