Thai-Style Shaved Ice at Wann Yen in the U District

Five bucks gets you a shaved ice unlike any other in town.

By Allecia Vermillion August 28, 2015

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At Wann Yen there's a quote on one of the charcoal gray walls from writer Janet Brown, describing Bangkok's nam khang sai stalls whose cold, colorful desserts consist of "A little of this, a little of that, topped with a big scoop of ice and drizzled with syrup and coconut milk."

That's a pretty apt assessment of this little shaved ice shop just off the Ave, a new project from the couple behind Thai Curry Simple. Owners Mark and Picha Pinkaow make many of the accompaniments themselves, like the herb jelly or the squiggly pandan leaf noodles, which resemble a gummi iteration of green beans.

Wann Yen offers four topping scenarios, plus two simple fruit-and-ice combos for anyone who's wary of lychee and sweet yams in their frozen desserts. If a customer needs help navigating the menu, the staff usually starts with a query: "Do you like coconut?"

I do, indeed. Thus I landed on option no. 3, the Lord Chong Bai Tauy–by far the most visually intriguing, thanks to those pandan noodles. They're mostly a textural counterpoint to the fat snowball sitting in the center like the outsize yolk of a perfectly fried egg. 

The ice is drizzled with a syrup of coconut milk and toasted palm sugar–a toasty-sweet milky flavor, not unlike a bowl of Rice Krispies on ice...and alongside a gentle teeth-squish of those noodles.

Shaved ices are $5 with tax, can be served either in a bowl or a cute little portable carrier, and are unlike anything else you're going to eat in Seattle. The Wann Yen website has details of the other shaved ice combos, like water chestnuts, jackfruit, and coconut.

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