Can you feel it? That’s warm summer weather rolling across the hemisphere, and when it gets hot out, we whip out those cold frozen treats, like shaved ice. We recently published a slideshow about different versions of icy non-ice cream treats, and one of the slides featured a Korean frozen dish that’s near to my heart: bingsu.
Bingsu (also written as bingsoo) is Korea’s version of shaved ice, and it’s a colorful snowy cup of shaved ice covered in a multitude of toppings, including fruit, condensed milk, a scoop or two of ice cream, rice cakes like mochi, flavored syrups, and most commonly, sweet red bean. The kind with red bean on it is called patbingsu (the red bean being “pat” in Korean). I have seen minimal versions, and I have seen “everything but the kitchen sink” versions, all of them fantastic.
What you end up getting is a cold treat that’s more ice than cream, with a plethora of flavors and textures. Ice cream sundaes are great and all, but they don’t always offer the chewiness of miniature rice cakes alongside the starchy sweetness of beans and the crispness of fresh fruit. Because of the ice, bingsu also has a lighter quality to it than an ice cream sundae as well.
Bingsu is not, however, something you’ll see terribly often in the United States, nor is it something you’ll see whipped out as a dessert item on a menu at a restaurant. Instead, it’s more of a cafe treat, and eaten as a standalone snack rather than a capper to a meal. Bingsu is also something you share as a group, too, so be sure to have at least one to three other people around to dig away at it.
It’s sort of a bonding experience as you dig through all the toppings, and the real challenge is to try and get to everything before the ice melts. It’s a good way to chat and catch up with each other over something sweet. Plus, if you like taking photos of your food, bingsu is almost always presented to you beautifully as a photogenic dish.
I realize that not everyone reading this has a large Korean population by them, which begs the question, “Can you make this at home?” Thankfully, the answer is yes, and because bingsu is so customizable for your own personal preferences, you can add whatever you like as long as you have some crushed or shaved ice on hand, which you can make by crushing ice in a food processor.
This recipe for patbingsu from My Korean Kitchen is a pretty good standard place to start, but since bingsu can have anything on it, you can do whatever you like. That means you can use just fresh fruit and condensed milk, or crushed cookies, ice cream, and syrup, it’s really up to your personal preferences. Just make sure you’ve got someone around to enjoy it with, because that’s almost as important as the bingsu itself.