Bingsu, shaved ice with toppings. (123rf)
A popular summertime dessert in Korea, bingsu, shaved ice traditionally topped with red beans and drizzled with milk, keeps getting fancier with endless varieties of toppings and presentations.
At the forefront of bingsu’s eye-catching makeover are five-star hotels that spare no effort in coming up with ever more decadent shaved-ice variations each summer. At the height of indulgence, a bowl of bingsu for two can cost as much as 90,000 won ($69) at hotels, while more humble varieties served at cafes typically cost around 8,000 won.
For those who do not want to splurge, there is cup bingsu for one, usually priced at around 2,500 won and sold at most convenience stores. Milk poured on top will vastly improve the taste of cup bingsu, giving it a smooth and milky texture as the shaved ice melts.
Following is a selection of bingsu you can try, widely varying in toppings and presentation as well as price.
Taegeukdang: Classic patbingsu
A classic patbingsu, shaved ice with red beans, served at Taegeukdang, central Seoul. (Taegeukdang‘s Instagram)
Taegeukdang, located in front of Dongguk University Station Exit No. 2, is one of the oldest bakeries in Korea that dates back to 1946, a year after the country’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule.
The traditional patbingsu here is made of roughly-ground ice, rather than the micro-fine type, and is topped with red beans, injeolmi, or rice cake, sweetened condensed milk, canned fruit and colorful jelly.
Most people prefer stirring patbingsu to mix the ice with the toppings, but those who want to enjoy them separately can dig into the bowl straight away.
Since the toppings make patbingsu very sweet, those who want less of them can request so. Patbingsu at Taegeukdang is priced at 8,000 won.
Maison De La Categorie: Sweet corn bingsu
Sweet corn bingsu with ingredients made using chodang oksusu, or sweet corn, at French restaurant Maison De La Categorie, in Cheongdam-dong, southern Seoul. (Maison De La Categorie’s Instagram
A three-minute walk from Apgujeong Rodeo Station Exit No. 4, Maison De La Categorie is a French fine dining restaurant famous for its delicate desserts, including its signature sweet corn bingsu.
The dessert is also called chodang bingsu by frequenters, after a type of corn, called chodang oksusu, that is similar to sweet corn. Chodang oksusu is grown mainly on Jeju Island and South Jeolla Province, today.
The bingsu is served with corn sauce and ice cream, topped with salted caramel popcorn, all using organic chodang oksusu as their main ingredient. The sweet corn bingsu is priced at 28,000 won.
Grand InterContinental Seoul: Vegan avocado bingsu
Vegan Avocado Bingsu served at the Lobby Lounge & Bar of Grand InterContinental Seoul Parnas, in Samseong-dong, southern Seoul. (Grand InterContinental Seoul)
For vegans reluctant to try out bingsu due to most of them using ice cream and milk, Grand InterContinental Seoul Parnas offers something for you.
The hotel has been a pioneer of vegan bingsu for the past few years. This year‘s newly launched Avocado Vegan Bingsu is made with coconut ice, prunes, tofu, granola, lime sorbet and slices of creamy avocado gently laid on top.
This is enjoyed not only by vegans, but also millennials and Generation Z, who look for “healthy pleasures.” They are delighted with the vegan bingsu, according to Kim Dong-woo, chef patissier at the Grand InterContinental Seoul Parnas.
Avocado Vegan Bingsu is priced at 32,000 won for a single serving and 50,000 won for a double serving.
Four Seasons Hotel Seoul: Chocolate profiterole bingsu and more
Chocolate Profiterole Bingsu served at the Maru Lounge, Four Seasons Hotel Seoul, near Gwanghwamun, central Seoul. (Four Seasons Hotel)
Four Seasons Hotel, located in Gwanghwamun, has made playful and delicious twists on bingsu. The hotel has launched three additional items for this summer that use Korean ingredients but also reflect familiar desserts from around the world. The three are available for a month in rotation.
The basil panna cotta bingsu, sold throughout July, is made of blueberries, granola and basil yogurt sorbet atop panna cotta, a popular Italian pudding. In August, Earl Grey financier bingsu brings traditional French almond cake with shaved ice and orange and Earl Grey ice cream.
Chocolate profiterole bingsu will be introduced in September. It will be a sweet and salty delight, with vanilla pudding, cocoa nibs, nougatine and Maldon sea salt.
The price ranges from 64,000 won to 67,000 won.
By Kim Hae-yeon (firstname.lastname@example.org