팥빙수 (Patbingsu) is a very popular Korean shaved ice dessert that you can find served in many places during the summer time. The basic traditional type consists of ice shavings, red bean, condensed milk and rice cake, but now a days many creative takes on this dish can be found. You can get bingsu topped with ice cream or frozen yogurt, piled high with fruit and sprinkled with cereal pieces, candy or cookies. They even come in a variety of flavors like strawberry, oreo and green tea. Now the question is “where can I find the best ones?” Well, I’ve tried quite a few, but there are only a few that stand out above the rest. Here are my top four picks of 2014.
Flower Bingsu (화분빙수)
140-893 서울시 용산구 이태원로 259
The Flower Bingsu at Banana Tree is served in its most traditional form with a creative twist and is by far one of the best ones I’ve ever had. It consists of a huge flower pot of soft, yet slightly crisp shaved ice and condensed milk, topped with sweet red bean “soil” and fluffy white cubes of 떡 (rice cake). It’s garnished with a huge silk sunflower and comes with a large gardening shovel to mix everything together. I particularly like the red beans they use because they are not mushy or over sweetened, adding substance and texture to the bingsu. I really enjoy the pieces of rice cake as well because they are nice and soft and really compliment the overall simplistic taste of this dish. The overall presentation is absolutely adorable and the taste is perfection despite the minimal amount of ingredients used. If you are looking to try a traditional bingsu, this is definitely the one to beat.
Fruits Ice Flake (과일 빙수)
Haba Cocina offers your tastebuds an exotic tropical experience with their Fruits Ice Flake bingsu. The fluffy ice used for this dish is a result of the combination of shaved frozen milk and sweet condensed milk. The center and top of the snowy mountain is smothered with a homemade sherbet that is made from ground up strawberries and mountain strawberries. It is sweet and smooth with a slightly tart tang that lingers on the tongue. This delicate is mound is shielded by a meticulously arranged assortment of fresh fruit. Bananas, kiwis, blueberries, pineapples and mangoes create a colorful umbrella that assures the taste of a juicy piece of fruit with every bite. Topping off the lovely and delicious arrangement are a few pieces of soft white 떡 (rice cake). Eating this dish is like a vacation for your mouth. Nothing says summer quite like a bowl full of tropical fruit.
Oreo Green Tea Bingsu (녹차 오레오 빙수)
Pas de Deux (빠드두)
서울 강남구 신사동 644-20
The Oreo Green Tea Bingsu served at Pas de Deux is a sinfully elegant gourmet delight. The shaved ice is incredibly soft and has a nice balance of condensed milk that doesn’t make it too watery or overly sweet. However, my favorite part of this dessert would have to be the green tea base that they make specially for this dish. It’s rich, flavorful and has a certain smoothness that seems to envelop every bite. It can be found at the bottom of the dish, which is helpful when you’re mixing everything together, but an additional side is served with it so you can add some to the top as well. A heaping pile of Oreo crumbs cloak the top the icy mountain and an enormous scoop of delicious green tea ice-cream brings it all together. Finally, it is garnished with an Oreo and two shards of handmade chocolate, which combines the green tea base with white chocolate for a heavenly taste. If you love green tea, you will fall head over heals for this unconventional bingsu.
Rooibos Milk Tea Bingsu (밀크티 빙수)
서울시 마포구 서교동 334-13
₩12,000 (1 per) / ₩18,000 (2 ppl)
Damso’s Rooibos Milk Tea Bingsu is a one of a kind flavorful homemade confection. The shaved ice is made from frozen milk, which is hand-shaved at the cafe. This bingsu boasts a crunchy, flakey texture, as opposed to the more common soft sherbet-like texture that many bingsu dishes have adopted recently. It’s like eating a bowl of snowflakes. Additionally, the crunchy cereal flakes and hand-ground almonds that top this icy mound compliment its texture perfectly. The milk tea base that is used for this particular bingsu is a unique recipe created by the owner using a South African rooibos tea, which gives it its alluring and bold flavor. The top is littered with an array of fresh seasonal fruit, such as strawberries and blueberries and is topped off with a delicate scoop of homemade yogurt sherbet. This hand made dish is a unique mouthwatering delight that beacons to the tastebuds of any milk tea lover.