Bingsu, a classic Korean dessert, has been around since the Joseon era and was originally only served in the summer. However, as the summer grew longer and food culture changed, an increasing number of establishments are now selling bingsu year round. Originally, bingsu was just broken up ice topped with red azuki beans. This variety of bingsu is the most representative of Korean bingsu even today, but for young people who like to try new and unique desserts, this may not be enough. Read on for the Korea Tourism Organization’s top nine unique dessert treats in Seoul.
Danggojip is the only place in Korea that specializes in Japanese dango (also called danja), a type of rice cake made of glutinous rice flour that has been steamed and shaped into round balls, and then served on a skewer. These chewy desserts are often made without a filling, although peanut powder can be sprinkled on top according to one's preference.
The café's most popular item is the cherry blossom bingsu, which is a milk bingsu topped with cherry blossoms, red azuki beans, strawberries, and a pink sauce. The dish is a pleasure to both see and taste. Try their popular bingsu, and if you are still not full, add on one of their dozen varieties of dangos. Some of the café's clientele include artists from the Hongdae area and celebrity actor Cha Seungwon.
An establishment that emphasizes natural flavors, Sobok first opened in the Hongik University area in early 2014. They offer fresh and nutty ice cream prepared daily every morning, mixing brown rice and various grains with milk.
In general, bingsu is made with shaved ice topped with various ingredients. In contrast, the bingsu at Sobok is made with grain ice cream topped with small amounts of sweet pumpkin, dried persimmon, rice cakes, grain syrup, and other natural ingredients. Each bowl of bingsu is garnished with a small chrysanthemum flower. The paper bowl the bingsu is served in is also environmentally friendly, as it is made of corn powder.
Imi is located in Seogyo-dong, a quiet neighborhood near Hongik University. This café is run by two brothers, one a barista and the other a baker. Imi serves a one-of-a-kind fresh cream orange bingsu. It is served in a large coffee mug and topped with so much fresh cream, you might mistake it for coffee at first glance. Take a spoonful of it, and you will instantly feel rejuvenated by the refreshing orange taste. Also popular, especially among the young female clientele, is the French-style cake made of oranges and cheese.
Bungeoppang, fish-shaped bread filled with red bean paste, is a common winter-time snack in Korea. At A-boong, this treat takes on a new spin during the summer. There are three flavors of ice cream bungeoppang, which became instantly popular online thanks to its pretty and unique shape. The big-size bungeoppang features red azuki beans, fresh cream or sweet potato sauce, and comes topped with ice cream and a skewer of chocolate-covered fruit.
Penguin Macaroon was the first ice cream shop to offer macaroon ice cream sandwiches in Korea. All the macaroons and ice cream sold at Penguin Macaroon are made the same day. In addition, there is a limited quantitiy of sandwiches sold each day, making these treats a hot commodity. Due to their limited numbers, a long line of people begins to form in front of the store as the store’s opening hour approaches, all hoping to get this sweet and fun morsel.
There are five flavors of ice cream: green tea, fresh cream cheese, strawberry, banana, and chocolate. When you order ice cream, it will be served between the macaroons that go best with it (the colors of the macaroons change every day). Some say that macaroons are too sweet, but eat it with ice cream and you will quickly agree that the two are a perfect match.
Gaongill is a café similar to Ogada or Tea Oreum. It is a franchise café that sells traditional Korean snacks and beverages. Their traditional bingsu, the most popular menu item, is generously topped with red azuki beans, rice cakes, jujubes, chestnuts, and mung beans. Unique treats on their menu include Sujeonggwa bingsu, royal honey bingsu, and pea bingsu. The pea bingsu features peas boiled in sugar and is quite popular as it is low in calories.
Sammat Hootteok is a snack place run by a young brother-sister duo. By opening this establishment, the pair bet everything on their hotteok, a variety of Korean fritters. Sammat, or three tastes, refers to the three varieties of hotteok filling they serve: red azuki beans, cheese, and seed.
Eventually, the owners developed an ice cream version. The ice hotteok features cold ice cream stuffed inside a hotteok that has just been deep-fried in oil. The taste is beyond description and amazingly good, earning this snack the chance to appear on many TV shows. Also highly recommended is Sammat Hootteok’s tteok-bokki, an all-time favorite Korean snack food, and the Italy hotteok that is full of cheese.
Tasting Room is a restaurant run by a married couple, one is an architect and one is a lighting designer. The restaurant sells popcorn salt ice cream, which is vanilla ice cream covered in popcorn and served on a chilled dish sprinkled with salt. Dip the ice cream in some salt to enhance its sweetness, but be sure you don’t use too much salt or it will ruin the ice cream’s flavor. This combination of popcorn and ice cream has become more common on the Korean street food scene and you will also find similar ice creams at movie theaters.
Bardot Bars is a decadent ice cream brand from California. With the motto "We sell Love on a stick," the store's main product is decadent ice cream bars. The shop interior is designed as if selling luxury goods and the packaging is also unique and lavish. The ice cream is coated with Belgium chocolate, while the inside comes in ten or so flavors, including walnut, cheese, and green tea.
The flagship store in Cheongdam-dong is run side by side with Klatch Coffee, a specialty coffee shop from the U.S. Bardot Bars was also featured several times in Korean dramas and Yoon Eun-hye, EXO, and 4minute also filmed here.
<Last updated on July 20, 2015>
* This column was last updated in July 2015, and therefore information may differ from what is presented here. We advise you to check details from the official websites before visiting.