|Bingsu, an unbeatable summer treat!|
Bingsu (shaved ice with toppings) is a popular snack food found almost everywhere in Korea during the summer months. Believed to date back all the way to the Joseon Dynasty, the original bingsu was served simply as finely broken ice chips topped with sweetened red bean porridge. In the years following its debut, the popularity of bingsu exploded across the nation, bringing with it an almost endless variety of bingsu types and flavor combinations. Today, many bingsus shy away from the predominantly bean taste; some even omit the red beans altogether. From the traditional patbingsu of red beans and ice to complex mixes of ice cream and fruit, bingsus can easily be found in almost any coffee shop or bakery in Korea. Here, we’ll introduce you to the best of both worlds, giving you plenty of places where you can indulge in a sweet and delicious bingsu treat.
Patbingsu with locally-produced red beans & finely shaved ice
Dongbinggo in Ichon-dong, Yongsan-gu serves up a delicious version of the original patbingsu. This small establishment has just 8 tables and is so popular that you’ll have to take a number and wait to be seated. What sets Dongbinggo’s patbingsu apart from its competition is its use of locally-grown beans, which have a soft and pleasant texture without being mushy. The beans sit aloft a mound of thinly shaved ice chips flavored with a mixture of milk and condensed milk. Add generous slices of chewy rice cake and you’ve got a flavorful taste sensation! Other popular menu items are the Misutgaru (roasted rice and grain powder) Bingsu, Coffee Bingsu (made of aromatic coffee), and the Royal Milk Tea Bingsu (beloved for its rich tea flavor).
☞ Place: Dongbinggo (Seoul Yongsan-gu)
Autumn squash bingsu, bursting with natural flavor
Located in Seongbuk-dong, Seongbuk-gu, Suyeonsanbang (Old house of Novelist Lee Taek-jun) is a hanok café selling traditional Korean teas and rice cakes. An all-around authentic experience, everything sold at the café is made by the café owner using natural ingredients. In the summer, the café is bustling with people who come from far and wide for the Autumn Squash Bingsu, a shaved ice dish topped with cooked autumn squash pulp, vanilla ice cream, jujube preserves, and injeolmi rice cake. As healthy as it is delicious, a bowl of Autumn Squash Bingsu is filling enough to be had as a light meal.
☞ Place: Suyeonsanbang (Seoul Seongbuk-gu)
Chestnut & jujube patbingsu, served up in a traditional brass bowl
Damjang Yeope Gukhwakkot (Chrysanthemum by the Fence) in Seorae Village in Banpo-dong, Seocho-gu is famous for Chestnut and Jujube Patbingsu, which comes out in a stunningly crafted brass bowl. The dish is made of a mountain of ice, home cooked red beans, fresh homemade rice cakes, and milk and is garnished with a generous helping of freeze-dried jujubes that are so crispy they almost taste like potato chips! Another popular dish is the Sujeonggwa Bingsu in which sujeonggwa (traditional persimmon punch) is poured over the shaved ice. Dishes are served in brass bowls, which not only add an extra bit of flair to the dish, but also help keep the dessert cool and stop the ice from melting. Complement your bingsu with one of the café’s traditional rice cakes or a cup of hand-drip coffee.
☞ Place: Damjang Yeope Gukhwakkot (Seoul Seongbuk-gu)
Hanbang patbingsu in a hanbang café
Tea Therapy in Anguk-dong, Jongno-gu is a unique café that incorporates the principles of hanbang (Oriental medicine) in its tasty treats. The café’s signature Hanbang Patbingsu is a healthy concoction of shaved ice, well-cooked red beans, walnuts, sunflowers seeds, boxthorn, jujubes, adlay, mulberry, and almonds served with a side of soymilk. For an even more intensive hanbang experience, fill out the café’s short survey to find out which hanbang tea best suits your body type. An order of the hanbang tea entitles you to a free 15-20min soak in the foot bath outside the café.
☞ Place: Tea Therapy Haengnang (Seoul Jongno-gu)
Danji patbingsu with Opuntia (cactus)
Located right in the heart of Seoul in the popular shopping district of Myeongdong, Sicily is known for its Danji (Pot) Patbingsu and its exotic Optunia (paddle cactus) Fruit Bingsu. The Danji Patbingsu, which is big enough to feed two, comes out in an earthenware pot of shaved ice and milk loaded with red beans, cereal, almonds, and walnuts. The Danji Patbingsu is also made with extract of Opuntia, which gives the dish its unique color and taste. If you’re not a big fan of beans, opt for the Opuntia Fruit Bingsu, which comes topped with cherry tomatoes, kiwi and banana slices, cereal, and almonds.
☞ Place: Sicily (Seoul Jung-gu)
Melon bingsu served in a whole melon
Located on the basement floor of the Nature Poem building in Cheongdam-dong, Gangnam-gu, I’m Coffee offers a summertime Melon Bingsu that’s out of this world! Unlike other fruit bingsus that only come topped with fruit, this melon bingsu comes out as a whole melon. The flesh of the melon is scooped out and formed into balls while the emptied melon is filled with shaved ice and used as the serving bowl. The ice is then topped with the melon balls and a scoop of ice cream, resulting in a semi-healthy snack with just the right amount of sweet.
☞ Venue: I’m Coffee (Seoul Gangnam-gu)
Cacao bingsu with sweet and mild cacao flavors
Located in Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Cacaoboom is a chocolate café serving up only the finest handmade chocolates. Famed for its handmade Belgium chocolates and chocolate-infused beverages, in summer the café rolls out another sweet surprise: Cacao Bingsu. Served from July to September, this summertime treat is made using chocolate that has been frozen and melted several times to create a thin ice, which is then shaved to make the bingsu base. The sweet flavor of the chocolate ice is further enhanced by a warm cacao sauce drizzled on top. Garnished with crisp almond slivers and pieces of chocolate, this dark chocolate delight offers a mildly sweet taste full of deep chocolate undertones.
☞ Venue: Cacaoboom (Seoul Mapo-gu)
Refreshing watermelon bingsu and sweet and sour strawberry bingsu
Come summer, Gami in Daehyeon-dong, Seodaemun-gu is crowded with fruit lovers eager to chow down on the café’s famous Watermelon Bingsu and Strawberry Bingsu. The reason why this café is so popular is that at Gami, fruit takes center stage. Both bingsus are made with ice flakes made of milk topped with generous scoops of juicy fruit and drizzled with condensed milk. Strawberries used in the Strawberry Bingsu are picked in the spring and sweetened with sugar, making for the perfect blend of tart and sweet.
☞ Place: Gami (Seoul Seodaemun-gu)