Bingsu is a traditional Korean dessert. This traditional dessert was enjoyed by the high officials back in the Joseon dynasty. It was originally made up of shaved ice topped with red bean, tteok (Korean rice cake), and ground nut powder. Today, bingsu comes in many different forms. Most are now made with shaved milk instead of ice, and people have gotten creative with the toppings. Among the countless varieties are Apple Mango bingsu, Mint Chocolate bingsu, Matcha bingsu, and Black Sesame bingsu.
I LOVE bingsu, and consider myself as a bingsu connoisseur. Throughout my life, I have visited countless bignsu cafes and tried many different variations of the dessert. That being said, trust me when I say I know where to get some of the best bingsus in Seoul.
Banhadang Cafe is a traditional hanok-style cafe located in Seongbuk-dong, which is the neighbourhood in Seoul where I grew up in. It is hidden in a little nook, which makes finding it a little difficult. However, once you do, you won’t be disappointed. This cafe sells the best traditional-style patbingsu (red bean bingsu) in Seoul. The bingsu at this cafe comes topped with crunchy dried jujube pieces, which makes all the difference when it comes to this bingsu. The jujube pieces add a special wow factor that can’t be beaten. Banhadang Cafe also hand-makes the red bean compote, which gives it a more authentic, rich flavour. Another thing that I love about this place is that they give you extra red bean compote and jujube pieces for free alongside your bingsu. That way, you won’t have to go through the disappointing process of having to eat shaved milk with no toppings left. If you are looking to try a traditional patbingsu, this is the place for you.
Ice Boobing Cafe
Ah, my personal favourite. Ice Boobing Cafe is known for its unique selection of gourmet handcrafted bingsus. From Black Sesame bingsu to Mint Chocolate bignsu, there is something for everyone. There are also seasonal specials, such as Cherry-Plum bingsu during the summer and Sweet Potato bignsu in the winter (yes, Korean people still eat bingsu in the winter). I love the silky, melt-in-your-mouth texture of the bingsus at this cafe. The base is always important when it comes to bingsus, and this place nails it every time. They also tend to use puree-style toppings rather than ones with more shape and texture. This results in a delicious bingsu with the base and toppings all blended perfectly with each other. Ice Boobing Cafe is very popular, so you should expect a lineup if you go. However, it is absolutely worth the wait.
As the name suggests, Samcheong Bingsu is located in Samcheong-dong. I grew up very close to this neighbourhood, so I have lots of good memories of this area. This bingsu place is located up on the hill, above the main street. Despite its location, it is very popular. Their most well-known bingsu is the Grapefruit Bingsu, which is the one furthest left in the photo. It consists of a milk base topped with grapefruit slices. The tartness of the grapefruit pairs surprisingly well with the creaminess of the milk, making it a popular choice among guests. Also in the photo are the Traditional Patbingsu (middle), and the Matcha Patbingsu (furthest right). My personal favourite is the Matcha Patbingsu. I love anything with matcha, and the bitter taste of it balances out the sweetness of the red bean very well. I highly recommend you visit this place if you prefer a bingsu with a creamier base.
No matter what the weather is or what time of day it is, bingsu is always a good idea. If you are visiting Korea, you simply cannot leave without trying some bingsu. Luckily for you, now you know the best places to try some.
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