Everything You Need to Know About Korean Shaved Ice Snack Bingsu
16 November, 2018
China has the bao bing, Japan has the kakigori, the Philippines has halo-halo. Korea, on the other hand, has the bingsu – a shaved ice tower covered with spellbinding toppings.
If you’ve not had the pleasure of trying it, allow us to explain. Patbingsu is a street food dessert of shaved ice piled high into a stainless-steel bowl adorned with sweet toppings, including chopped fruit, sweetened red beans and tteok (AKA terrifically chewy gelatinous rice cakes), then blessed with a generous pour of condensed milk. Varieties with ingredients other than red beans are called bingsu or bingsoo.
It is, understandably so, a dish you’ll want to photograph before diving in. When pitched beside a dense slice of cake or even a bejewelled sundae, the bingsu is the lighter dessert thanks to the ice shavings – and, as such, you can eat a lot of it.
Korean-American Momofoku chef and host of Netflix’s Ugly Delicious, David Chang grew up downing bowls of bingsoo in his youth. Many years later, the ice spectacular remains close to his heart, and David has included a coffee version of the Japanese shaved ice dessert kakigori on the menu of his new LA restaurant Majordomo, which opened in 2018 as an homage to Los Angeles’ Asian food.
In Korea, summer is synonymous with patbingsu. Upon first sighting the impressively tall, snow-like mounds of decorative bingsoo, you’ll notice that its aesthetic is best surmised as “OTT”. Some have added sparkling wine to the ice shavings, offering a sort of bingsoo cocktail. The dessert is undoubtedly seasonal, so come summer, luxury hotels in Seoul are serving countless iterations of the refreshing last course.