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HomeTrendingBingsu: Not Your Local Ice Kachang

Bingsu: Not Your Local Ice Kachang

We all know the soft-serve ice cream craze is outdated. But to replace it, a newfangled or newfan-girled Korean dessert has hit the town! It’s Bingsu, a shaved ice dessert that many call the Korean ice kachang [South East-Asian shaved ice desert].

After the precedent Korean soft-serve ice cream, bingsus are riding in with the Korean wave, with more dessert cafes opening their doors in our local foodscape.

A crowd-pleasing summer treat for all Koreans, this icy dessert dates back as far as the Joseon Dynasty (1392 – 1897). According to The Korea Herald, Seobingo, the government office that oversees the royal icebox, would share the ice exclusively among officials who would then enjoy the crushed ice with basic toppings of pat [red beans], tteok [rice cakes] and ground nut powder.

Like two peas in a pod, the bingsu and ice kachang are both saviors, beating the Singapore heat. However, the bingsu is nothing like its local counterpart in 4 areas:

Fluffy Shavings

Different from the typical coarse and granular heaps of ice in ice kachang, the Korean bingsu has its ice shaved so finely that we aren’t exaggerating when we say it melts in your mouth. With a horde of bingsu cafes using Korea-imported ice shaving machines, the ice’s texture in a bowl of bingsu becomes the defining factor for each particular café.

One of the early bingsu cafes to set foot on our shores, Korean-owned Nunsongyee (meaning snowflakes in Korean) has shaved their unique label, a velvety ice base like their name suggests. Café Manager Lee Hyun Gyoung, 23, shares that Nunsongyee serves milk shavings instead of plain ice shavings for their version of the quintessential bingsu.

Above-the-Top toppings

Now we all know that there’s more than just ice to Korean bingsus.

Unlike ice kachang that has the ice doused liberally in syrups with sidekicks like jelly, red beans and attap chee [palm seed], bingsu dishes present their toppings as the heroes. Packed with extravagant toppings like pat, tteok, seasonal fruits and sometimes a scoop of ice cream, the bingsu is a feast to both the eyes and stomach.

Following its huge popularity, more (in fact too many) variations of bingsu have emerged alongside original Korean flavours. Choosing to shy away from the use of red beans, these modern variations stand against the palates of traditions by incorporating more funky toppings.

Some popular renditions include bingsus with fresh fruits matched with ice cream and also Westernized flavors like chocolate, cheese, marshmallows or Oreo crumbs.

Burning Wallets

If there’s any advice we can give, it’s to savor every scoop of bingsu thoroughly for your money’s worth for you’ll be paying at least 5 times more than a bowl of ice kachang from hawker centers. Ranging from an average of SGD$10+ to SGD$20+ for more premium flavors, you really get what you pay for but it’s still a price point difference.

But on the other hand, bingsus usually come in portions too big for one to devour solo. Here’s a tip: Share it with one or two other friends. Spare a thought for your stomach (and your wallet). Plus brainfreeze isn’t super fun by yourself.

Plethora Of Flavors

With many dessert cafes serving toppings made in-house or imported from Korea, you don’t have to be in Seoul to enjoy a bowl of authentic bingsu.

Back in Joseon Dynasty, bingsus are available in a red bean flavor and hence the name: “patbingsu”, meaning red bean bingsu. With time and an influx of western influence during the Korean War, people began adding an assortment of ingredients like cereal and ice cream, which eventually translated into mouth-watering flavors like the few below:

Bing Go Jung Korean Dessert House
Bt Timah Plaza, 1 Jalan Anak Bukit, Singapore 588996
102 Guillemard Road #01-01, Singapore 399719

Bingsu Coffee ($11)

The Coffee Bingsu comes with toppings of rice cakes, walnuts, almond flakes, corn flakes hidding beneath the ice shavings and a scoop of vanilla ice cream resting atop sweetened red beans. Drizzle the coffee syrup over, mash the dessert up and you’re good to go.

The piece de resistance of this dessert lies in the coffee syrup. Though ordinary looking, it certainly adds a coffee undertone to the ice shavings without being overly sweet and soothes the throat from the combination of nuts and cornflakes.

Café Insadong
279 South Bridge Road, Singapore 058828

Green Tea Bingsu ($9.50)

According to Operations Manager Chanel Tan, 20, Café Insadong specializes in flavored ice for their bingsus. From green tea ice cream to green tea flavored shave ice, this bingsu is sure to gain the hearts of green tea fans. Topped with crunchy red dates and jasmine mochi [Japanese rice cake], this bingsu melds the sweet red beans with the slight bitterness from the green tea.

You can read our full review on Café Insadong here.

45 Burghley Drive #01-04, Singapore 559022

Injeolmi Bingsu ($14.90)

The Injeolmi [rice cake coated with bean powder] Bingsu is listed as one of the Korean’s favorites. Smothered in light soybean powder and almond flakes, this seemingly bland dessert packs a nutty punch for the palate that’s happily not overpowering.

The lightly salted injeolmi not only enhances the sweet flavor of the bingsu but also breaks the textural monotony of crunching from the almond flakes with its chewiness. Depending on your preference for sweetness, condensed milk is also given to customize to your sweet tooth’s exacting requirements.

Strawberry Bingsu ($18.90)

Classified as a premium flavor in Nunsongyee, the cost of this bingsu is considered as ‘upscale’ in Singapore. Decked out with fresh strawberry slices and crowned by a perfect ball of vanilla ice cream, this bingsu posses a visual appeal too pretty for a shot to not be taken.

However, being this pretty comes at a price of sourness that is inevitable with the strawberries. To make up for the tartness, be sure to mash the ice cream really well and don’t go easy on pouring the sweet condensed milk.

One Ice Café
2 Jurong East Central 1, J Cube #02-67 Singapore 608731

Pat Bingsu ($6.80)

It’s back to the basic in this bingsu with toppings including rice cake, jelly bits, corn flakes, vanilla ice cream and red beans. Coupled with its strategic location in a Hongdae inspired shopping district marked by an endless stream of Korean music and fashion, and offering probably the cheapest price for a bingsu in Singapore, the growing support from youths is no surprise at all.

The generous amount of corn flakes is an ingenious way to add crunchiness to the finely shaved ice. Slightly more toned-down in the variety of toppings, this dessert caters to people who prefer a simpler bingsu with none of the fancy frills and their accompanying price tag.

Despite more bingsu cafes popping up each month, there is no certainty to how long this craze will last till it fizzles out like the precedent Honey Crème wave. But whether the bingsu wave rises or falls, rest assured that the local ice kachang will always be there to cool the heat despite their new Korean neighbors.



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