Photo: Snowflake Milk Bingsu
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 Dynasty, the original bingsu was simple, served as finely broken ice chips topped with sweetened red bean porridge. The beans sit aloft a mound of thinly shaved ice chips flavored with a mixture of milk or condensed milk. Finishing with a garnish of choice, such as nuts and seeds, these toppings giving the bingsu texture as well as nutritional supplements. The most popular bingsus found are those topped with misutgaru (roasted rice and grain powder) or served with generous pieces of chewy rice cake, completing a flavorful taste sensation.
Photo: Strawberry Bingsu (left) / Mango Bingsu (right)
Today, many bingsus shy away from the predominantly red bean taste and some even omit the red beans altogether. This modification is especially welcomed by those who cannot eat red beans (also known as 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. Some bingsus are specialized in a single flavor such as mango or strawberry, but if you like a little taste of all, mix choices are also available.
Photo: Hanbang Patbingsu (left) / Sweet Pumpkin Bingsu (right)
For the health-conscious, choosing which dessert to order might be a bit of a struggle. But have no fear as some bingsus are prepared with comparatively mild flavors, topped with generous chunks of sweet pumpkin, jujube or almond, filling enough to be consumed as a light meal. These delicacies are even served in a beautiful brass or porcelain bowl, adding a tinge of traditional charm, favored equally by both young and older generations. While the sweet pumpkin bingsu does contain red beans, it is also topped with a generous portion of healthy ingredients such as gugija (barbary wolfberry fruit), yulmu (Job’s tear), odi (mulberry fruit) and more, making for a mild taste that it particularly popular among the older clienteles. The dish can be enjoyed after pouring soy milk over the shaved ice, bringing out the nutty flavors of the toppings.
Photo: Cherry Blossom Bingsu (left) / Cacao Bingsu (right)
From the traditional red beans to complex mixes of ice cream and fruits, bingsus can easily be found in almost any coffee shop or bakery in Korea. However, there are even more unique bingsus that are only found in some, such as cacao bingsu, snowflake milk bingsu, cherry blossom bingsu, or popcorn bingsu. These uniquely named bingsus are attracting a lot of attention from the young generations, as they are not only visually appealing but taste heavenly too!
* This column was last updated in June 2016, and therefore information may differ from what is presented here.
<Last updated on June 22, 2016>