Bingsu: What Is It, Taste, and How To Eat?

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Desserts are tasty delights that everyone loves. One primary ingredient in countless desserts is ice. 

One of those ice dessert dishes is bingsu, but what exactly is bingsu, and how do you eat it?

Bingsu is a Korean dessert popular in the summer. It’s shaved ice with different flavors and toppings depending on what variant you get. It’s meant to be served cold and eaten in small quantities. Bingsu is a healthy alternative dessert choice when compared to dishes like cake and pies.

The rest of this article will cover what bingsu is, how to eat it, and a brief conclusion.

What Bingsu Is

Bingsu (빙수), sometimes romanized as bingsoo, is a dessert originating from Korea. There’s a lot of variety with these sweet treats, but the most common is called pat-bingsu (팥빙수), which is a red bean shaved ice with sweet toppings like chopped fruit, condensed milk, or fruit syrup.

However, there’s more types of bingsu besides pat-bingsu. There’s also nokcha-bingsu (녹차빙수 – green tea bingsu), ttalgi-bingsu (딸기빙수 – strawberry bingsu), and choko-bingsu (초콜릿빙수 – chocolate bingsu). There’s more, but those are the most popular.

The idea of bingsu originated from China. Although not specifically bingsu, China created the idea of eating shaved ice with fruit. 

Back in the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), the idea came to Korea. From there, it evolved and became bingsu.

Back then, the shaved ice typically only had two or three ingredients. It was a simple treat created from natural ice. 

Ice from iceboxes were shaved into flakes and mixed with fruit. This was originally intended to be a sort of fruit punch, but it quickly turned into bingsu.

Bingsu evolved over the years until in 1946, a bakery started selling the modern version of it. 

This bakery is the oldest in Seoul, and it’s called Taegeukdang (태극당). After the Korean War, western influence hit Korea, and more variations and ingredients were added to the treat.

Where To Buy Bingsu

In Korea, you can go to street vendors, bakeries, and some restaurants to buy bingsu. Bakeries are your best option since they specialize in desserts.

You’ll need to eat it fast since, especially in summer, it’ll melt fast in high temperatures.

Korean marts and grocery stores carry packaged bingsu. That may sound strange, but they’re placed in containers that look like yogurt packs. 

They’re color-coded based on what flavor they are, they’re cheap, and they’re kept in the freezer to preserve them.

If you’re not in Korea, you can still get bingsu. You can go to a Korean restaurant and find bingsu there as a dessert.

Occasionally, Korean and other Asian restaurants will sell their goods. The reason is there’s a higher demand for Asian foods as they grow in popularity.

If you don’t want to, or don’t have access to, any of those options, you can make your own bingsu. 

Although it’s difficult to work with ice, picking up the proper ingredients from your grocery store and finding the right recipe can make the shaved ice dessert successfully.

Another option you have is online ordering. 

It’s hard to transport goods that are supposed to be cold, but you can find Korean companies that love to send snacks and desserts worldwide. 

Along with that, Korean restaurants are willing to deliver these treats to you.

How To Eat Bingsu

Although eating bingsu is pretty straightforward, there’s plenty of different toppings and environments you should try it with. 

For starters, bingsu is meant to be an outdoors dish. It’s made for summer and the heat. That’s why you should try eating it while outside.

Whether you decide to eat it indoors or outdoors, you should share it with your friends

Korean culture revolves a lot around food and sharing meals with your friends and family. Bingsu is a delicious treat that will have you and your friends trying new things together.

Besides new environments, there’s other ways you can try bingsu. No matter where you’re eating it, try new flavors when you can. 

Pick something that matches your taste, or something completely out of your comfort zone. There’s dozens of flavors to choose from.

Eating Bingsu Outside

As a dish intended for summer, you should try eating bingsu outside.

It’s a perfect treat to cool you down in the middle of the day, and although it’ll melt faster depending on the temperature, it makes the heat feel less unbearable and more pleasant.

Part of the enjoyment of food is the environment you’re in. 

If you’re eating bingsu on the porch of a restaurant with your friends, it’s going to be more memorable for you.

It’s also easy to find the places that sell bingsu. In the summer, the coffee shops will have ads for them everywhere.

Eating Bingsu With Friends

Food in Korean culture is supposed to be shared and enjoyed together. 

Bingsu is eaten in smaller portions, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a shareable amount and take it to your friends. 

Get a variety of flavors and see which ones you and your friends like and dislike.

You can also get vegan bingsu for yourself or any friends who may need it. It’s a versatile dish that’s not meant to be eaten alone. 

Bingsu should be eaten with company as a special treat you have after the main dish. A regular bingsu size is small, but can still serve about two people.

Eating Different Types Of Bingsu

Cuisine has evolved over the years in every culture. Bingsu is no different. The options used to be limited, but now you can eat almost any flavor of bingsu you can think of. 

Coffee bingsu, melon bingsu, honey bingsu, and more. The toppings also give it plenty of variety.

Once you have the flavors you want to try, sample them and see what you like and dislike. If there’s any you dislike, keep any you didn’t eat in the freezer to preserve them. 

That way you can give them to your friends or family to share the new experience.

It’s good to experiment with new foods based on your personal preference. Bingsu has so many flavors that it’s easy to find something you like. 

To increase your enjoyment, take your favorite fruit and add it to the bingsu as a topping. Try cutting up the fruit and sprinkling it on top.

Conclusion

In Korea, there’s a special treat called bingsu that’s meant to be eaten in summer. Bingsu is a shaved ice dessert that has different flavors like red bean, or pat, bingsu.

It’s a healthy dessert choice that’s meant to be eaten in smaller quantities. 

Bingsu originates in Korea, but the idea came from China. In the Joseon Dynasty, the idea came to Korea and it evolved to bingsu. 

At first, it was mostly a fruit punch type of dessert, but Koreans experimented more with the toppings and flavor until it became a modern hit.

There are many different flavors to try bingsu with, and also many different environments. You should have bingsu outside to get a refreshing treat in the heat, or with friends to share memories together, or you can try different flavors on your own and experiment. 

About The Author

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Jason Park

Jason has been living in Seoul over 4 years and during that time, he has experienced a lot of the city's quirks and charms. He loves to write about his experiences and share them with others who are interested in learning more about South Korea.

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