When I saw the advertisement for this marshmallow bingsu at Cafe Blog near Ewha, I knew I had to try it. I’ve grown from the mischievous child who ate marshmallow fluff straight from the container (much to my parents’ dismay) into a respectable (?) young adult (???) who now feeds her marshmallow addiction safely through Rice Krispies treats or s’mores. This bingsu took me right back to my childhood though because this is straight up marshmallow. As lovely as the milk ice is, it has no other flavor than syrupy sweetness, and the whipped cream was shockingly plain. This one got real boring, real quick. I spent most of my time just eating the marshmallows. Guess what’s on top though? Korea’s answer to pop-rocks. And they ROCK. But they don’t rock hard enough to land this bingsu a high score on the charts. Though innovative, this was like eating a bowl of pure sugar. No flavor. None. Zip. Nada. I mean, could they at least hook a sista up with some vanilla or somethin’?! You know what’d be awesome? A S’mores bingsu.
This green tea bingsu is from a cafe in 북촌. The ice is very crunchy, but gets softer towards the middle of the dish. It’s very off-putting. You practically break your teeth as soon as you start eating and then practice extreme caution when eating the rest of the bingsu. It’s hard to enjoy the nice flavor with your guard up. The bottom layers of ice also carry most of the green tea flavor which is not at all bitter like the O’sulloc bingsu (reviewed below) but not as sweet as a matcha kit-kat. The texture of the 떡 is much closer to what I’d expect from Japanese mochi: soft and delicate. And SWEET. They were almost like….marshmallows? The red beans don’t taste like they’re from a can. Though bananas don’t fit in with the rest of the traditional ingredients, I quite enjoyed them. They enhance the presentation and prevent the ice from breaking all your teeth.
This mango cheesecake bingsu from Sulbing reminds me of something you get at a carnival or a fair: colorful, syrupy and overly sweet. It features mango pieces covered in yuzu syrup, cheesecake bites, and ice cream with some almonds thrown in to make it look a little less like a heart attack. The almonds don’t suit the mango flavor in my opinion, but they were a brief reprieve from all the sugar. The milk ice is typical Sulbing quality, which never disappoints; this bingsu mixes rather well, since the mango pieces aren’t gigantic. Halfway through the bingsu there is yet another layer of syrup (as if we needed more…) so it never gets boring. This bingsu screams FUN and if you gave this to a kid they’d be bouncing all over the walls also screaming FUN. This is like the dessert of the dessert bingsu. Though I wasn’t that excited about it at the time, I’m giving it an 8 because it would’ve hit the spot if I wanted something extremely sweet.
This is 한라봉 (hallabong) bingsu from Cafe 오가.다 in 북촌. Hallabong is a really sweet orange/tangerine type of thing famously grown on Jeju Island. They’re supposed to be hella good. I’m not a big fan of citrus fruit, so I had my doubts but this is HELLA GOOD. Upon first bite, that hallabong flavor punched me in the gut and took all my money. It packs a WALLOP. Do you hear me?! The flavor is pretty consistent throughout the whole bingsu, which (almost) makes up for the fact that it’s made with just plain ice. As you can see from the picture, the ice is a little chunky and kind of crunchy, but surprisingly, I think the clear ice works quite well with such a strong citrus flavor. I might actually prefer the clear ice to the milk ice on this one. (At this particular place, you could choose what kind of ice you wanted.) This bingsu continued to surprise me: after you get through that mountain of ice, there’s some very mild coconut milk to refresh you after that hallabong flavor assault.
This is the infamous 인절미 (injeolmi) bingsu from 설빙. 인절미 is a type of Korean rice cake (not like Quakers…think mochi) covered with roasted soybean flour. It’s a very “traditional Korean flavor” and seems to be polarizing even among Koreans. It’s a best seller at Sulbing, but when I asked my host sister if we could try it, she adamantly said, “No! Not injeolmi!” Maybe she has some secret beef with injeolmi, I don’t know. Anyway, in Japanese, this is 黄粉 (きなこ). The whole bingsu is covered in a mountain of soybean flour so WARNING: you must mix this or you will choke and DIE. Okay, not really, but if you don’t mix it you’ll literally be eating spoonfuls of powder for the first few minutes. Even when I mixed it, it was still clumpy and stuck to the roof of my mouth like peanut butter. The rice cake was very good and there were a few slivers of almonds that added a little crunch. This one is a struggle to eat, but if you really like the nutty きなこ flavor, and want something a little earthy and not too sweet, this one is for you. I didn’t find this one particularly refreshing because it had too much powder, but I had it at a different Sulbing where the balance of powder and ice was just right, so I definitely see the appeal. I’m starting to crave this one now (sorry, host sister).
This 녹차 (green tea) bingsu is from the O’sulloc Tea store in Myeongdong. I would advise you to only get this one if you LOVE green tea. Not green tea flavored stuff like green tea latte or matcha kit-kats. I mean 濃い抹茶. This bingsu has a very deep and bitter flavor; the sweetness comes from the 떡 and the secret layer of red bean in the middle. I thought I loved green tea, but this caught me off guard. I was so happy when those red beans showed up! I was going to give it a lower score because it was almost too bitter to enjoy, but I think that’s the charm. It’s getting a high score for being the most legit 녹차빙수 I’ve ever had.
Caramel Coffee Bingsu from 설빙. It’s a heartier bingsu featuring almonds, cashews, granola, roasted coffee beans and caramel ice cream on top. It would be really hard to eat after a big meal. This bingsu mixes very well and the balance of caramel and coffee is such that it’s hard to separate the two flavors. It’s like a caramel macchiato + bingsu. A little salty to balance out the sweet, your tastebuds will appreciate the harmony of this one. I didn’t even need the condensed milk. I would’ve given it a 10/10 BUT it has a huge glob of red beans in the middle, which threw off the balance of flavors for me. The red beans made it too busy. Of course, if you love red beans no matter what, it’s a 10/10 for you.
Are your friends too busy getting haircuts (or doing something equally lame) to get bingsu with you? Fear not. 호밀밭 is here for you with their stellar fruit bingsu. Technically, I already reviewed this bingsu back in June. I previously gave a 9/10, but I had it again by itself, so it had my full attention this time around. Once again, this is the finest shaved milk ice I’ve had in Seoul; the fruit is sweet, abundant and super fresh (except the strawberries, which are frozen and kind of jank), but it doesn’t overpower the milk flavor of the ice, which is very very nice. The red beans and 떡 were also on point, as I’ve mentioned before. None of that mushy canned stuff. I didn’t really add the red beans because the fruit already keeps this bingsu bumpin’, but you certainly wouldn’t regret adding them in. Another thing I really like about this one is the size. It’s small enough for you to eat by yourself without feeling judged, but you could also share it with a friend. That’s rare in Korea, where it seems like you must be in a pair to do or eat anything.
One of my favorite ones to date. It’s a Taiwanese-style pineapple bingsu from Meet Fresh near Gangnam Station. First of all, they put the whole bingsu in a frickin’ pineapple! Do I need to say more?! The ice is perfectly soft and almost slushy-like, as if they froze the fruit juice. Fresh scoops of pineapple, maraschino cherries, fantastic chewy jelly things, cranberries and (coconut?) milk come together to create the most blissful, refreshing bingsu experience I’ve had in a loooong time. This transported me straight to Hawaii (not that I’ve ever been to Hawaii….) Oh wait. I guess I should say Taiwan (not that I’ve been there either….) EITHER WAY I was walking on sunshine. Pineapple-yellow sunshine. This bingsu was so light and pleasing I thought I could eat two, and I would have! But I didn’t want to pay for another one. Or the Meet Fresh employees to judge me.