Bingsu (shaved ice with toppings) is a popular snack food found almost everywhere in Korea during the summer months. Ranging from the standard pat bingsu (shaved ice with sweetened red beans) to any number of unique combinations, every year dessert businesses serve a number of 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 the endless diversity of bingsu and flavors.
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 feature fruit in place of the sweetened red beans of the past. 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. Other healthy bingsu options include one topped with finely grated deodeok (bellflower root) and dried persimmons, or topped with black sesame ice cream and chewy injeolmi tteok (rice cakes coated with powdered soybeans).
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 a more adult dessert, try the Irish Ice Bingsu. The rich flavor of a frozen Guinness beer goes great with the sweetness of the ice cream added to the glass. All these unique bingsu desserts attract a lot of attention, as they are not only visually appealing but taste heavenly, too!
* This column was last updated in July 2020, and therefore information may differ from what is presented here. We advise you to check details before visiting.