Bingsu (shaved ice with toppings) is a popular snack food found almost everywhere in Korea during the summer months. As it becomes a heavily dominant menu eaten across the nation by many Koreans and travelers seeking unique eats, lots of dessert businesses are coming up with more creative concoctions to delight their customers. To beat the sweltering heat this summer, let’s indulge in some of these tasty treats known to be the best of the best! Read on to find a variety of places where you can explore endless diversity of bingsu and flavors.
Believed to date back all the way to the Joseon era, the original bingsu was simple, served as finely broken ice chips topped with sweetened red bean porridge. From these humble beginnings, bingsu has been embellished by adding various garnish of choice, such as misutgaru (roasted rice and grain powder) or chewy rice cake pieces, completing a flavorful taste sensation.
Today, many bingsu shy away from the predominant red bean taste and some even omit the red beans altogether. This modification is especially welcomed by those who do not like red beans, or pat in Korean. The fruit toppings, whether freshly diced or added with honey and syrup, go so well with shaved ice, they make a perfect combination that will have you craving more. Recent popular fruit bingsu are those with shaved ice made of fruit or fruit extract, maximizing the fresh fruitiness. Flavors greatly depend on the main ingredient, options ranging over a wide variety of fruits, including mangos, strawberries, grapefruits, melons and peaches. Fruit bingsu may not be as sweet as the classic pat bingsu, but will melt in your mouth all the same and offer a burst of refreshing fruity flavors until your last scoop.
Bingsu can easily be made healthy by the addition of nutritious ingredients. You’ll feel healthier just by looking at bingsu topped with chunks of sweet pumpkin, jujube or almond. While normally bitter, mugwort can be made into sweetened jellies or chocolates, or even mixed with condensed milk and granola to put atop shaved ice for a treat that is a triple threat: sweet, cooling, and healthy. If you’re looking for something completely Korean, hanbang (medicinal herb) bingsu includes nutrient-filled ingredients such as gugija (wolfberry fruit), yulmu (Job’s tear), odi (mulberry fruit), nuts, and cinnamon powder, and has a taste similar to traditional Korean tea sujeonggwa (cinnamon punch).
If you’re tired of the basic bingsu, be on the lookout for new and exciting remakes! Cloud Mango Bingsu features a fluffy cotton candy cloud held aloft over fresh mango, mango pudding, and a smooth frozen treat made of milk and mascarpone cream. Jjajang Bingsu is designed to resemble jjajangmyeon (noodles in black bean sauce). White ice cream is prepared to look like the noodles, while the red bean paste is dark enough to disguise as the black bean sauce! Small chocolate balls made to look like peas complete the image. If you’re looking for something that really packs a sugary punch, Crème Brulee Bingsu will hit the spot! This bingsu has a base of custard cream, topped with ice cream and caramel, and a side of berry compote for that final touch. All these unique bingsu attract a lot of attention, as they are not only visually appealing but taste heavenly, too!
* This column was last updated in July 2019, and therefore information may differ from what is presented here.