What is PatBingSoo (팥빙수)?
Pat (팥) means "red bean", Bing (빙) means "ice" and Soo (수) means "water", but combined PatBingSoo (팥빙수) is referring to a Korean shaved iced dessert. Originally, it was usually served with azuki beans (NE Asian red bean) also known as Pat (팥) in Korean. So PatBingSoo (팥빙수) is a dessert or snack made with soft as snow milky shaved ice with a classic sweet red bean topping. Fruit BingSoo (과일빙수) is the same snowy ice base, but with fruit toppings. This is a very popular Korean treat, especially during the hot and humid summer months. These days, you can find so many (too many!) different variations of this such as: all kinds of different fruit, green tea, black sesame, pumpkin, ijulmee (dried bean powder), and even Westernised flavours with cheesecake, chocolate, caramel, oreo cookies and the list goes on!
My favourite part of the bingsoo itself is the soft flaky and milky ice, so I usually prefer the original milk bingsoo, especially if I can get the red beans on the side. I've also been enjoying some of the speciality and specials at certain places and have really enjoyed them. In the summertime in Korea, you can get bingsoo at almost any cafe, dessert shop, hotel or bingsoo specialty place.
Here is a combination of my favourite kinds or popular bingsoo places for different reasons! Some are more current newer places, and some are just good 'ol classics!
Newer Places with Speciality Types of Bingsoo
1. Melon Bingsoo @LGA - pronounced "el gah" (메론빙수 @엘가)
This bingsoo not only looks amazing but tasted great too! They use fresh melon (honeydew) balls carved right out of the melon bowl they serve it in. The melon balls are perfectly ripe and placed nicely on top of the fine milk ice. It gets more milky towards the centre and bottom, so keep digging in! It was more milky than creamy, and the top scoop of blueberry yogurt along with sliced almonds went so well with this bingsoo! I was so glad they didn't use any artificial melon syrup like some places do with their fruit bingsoos. They also had watermelon, mixed melon, mango and other fruit bingsoos that looked great too! Highly recommended!
2. Caramel Bingsoo @Maman Gateau (마망까또)
Giant caramel bingsoo with nuts, nut brittles, caramel syrup and caramels. If you like caramel, you will love this! It has a smokey burnt caramel flavour, and is a very like snow type of shave ice with mixed nuts on the inside. They give a side of more caramel syrup, and it is a excellent quality caramel shaved ice dessert. Highly recommended!
3. Variety bingsoos @설빙 (Sul-Bing)
This is a new chain bingsoo place that has popped up everywhere. Along with the original flavours, they are known for their speciality shaved ice flavours. They also have porridges, juices, teas and injulmee toast. We tried the 인절미설빙 (Injulmee Bingsoo - roasted soybean powder) & 망고유자설빙 (Mango Yuja Bingsoo).
I loved and recommend the Injulmee Bingsoo if you like the flavour of the roasted soybean powder. It is a very traditional Korean snack flavour (usually on chewy rice-cakes), but the amount of powder with the sliced almonds on top of the shaved ice was delicious. As it got moist from the ice, it got chewier like a rice-cake consistency and blended well with the shaved ice. The shaved ice itself is different here - it's not as flavourful or milky/creamy, and the texture is more of a hard fine shaved ice where it doesn't stick together as much but is more frozen. I would say the amount of topping and injulmee powder made up for the lack of flavour of the actual ice, and they also gave a little cup of more condensed milk to add on as you eat. Highly ecommended if you like injulmee!
I did not enjoy the flavour of the Yuja (an East Asian citrus fruit) syrup poured on top of the mangos. It had a fake taste to it, and the mangos were also served frozen, which ruined the tasted and enjoyment of the fruit itself. The frozen yogurt on top just added to the overall bitterness of this particular flavour. If the mangos were fresh, and there wasn't any yuja syrup poured on top, I think I may have actually liked this one - but the way it was served, I didn't even have more than 2 bites. Not recommended.
4. PatBingsoo and Oreo Bingsoo @Snowball (스노우볼)
This is also a newer chain that has several locations. We went to the one that's right beside the Cheil Building in Itaewon.
This place is also different with the type of ice they have. It is similar to the Sul-Bing (see above), but the flakes of ice are even more separated. If you were to blow on it, it would fly away if it was still frozen enough. So each ice flake is milky, but harder, and not as soft as an original style bingsoo. The flavours they have here are more limited: strawberry, grapefruit, red bean and oreo cookies.
The portions are smaller here (but the price is cheaper to reflect the size). We got the oreo cookie and red bean version. The oreo cookie one has more bits of oreo in the middle of the ice. I thought the cookies were too crunchy because they didn't melt into the ice that well, but my teeth are sensitive to biting cold things. I preferred the red bean version here because there was more flavour. It was good/different, however I think I just didn't like this type of ice overall compared to the softer, like snow versions of bingsoos like you will see below.
More Traditional and Original PatBingSoo
5. PatBing Soo and Fruit BingSoo @Meal Top (밀탑)
This place has been around for years and is very well known and popular amongst Koreans. They have original patbingsoo, strawberry, fruit, green tea and coffee bingsoo. I don't like the fruit bingsoos when they have the artificial juice or syrup, so I only like the original kind here. If you like red bean, the red bean here is very consistent and always has a soft blend that goes nicely with the soft rice-cake and finely soft shaved ice. You can't go wrong with this classic joint. Go especially if you like soft red bean.
6. Milk Bingsoo @C4 Cake Boutique
This has been one of my favourite places for the light and airy fluffy milk ice. They also give you a huge serving of the size separate to the red beans which I like. There used to be a location in hannam-dong, but it closed down, so the only location I know of this is in Shinsa area. It used to be known as a place Koreans would go to a lot for their first dates on set-ups. I just go for the mounds of shaved ice! They also have limited flavours of original milk, royal milk tea, green tea and coffee bingsoo. I always prefer original and the royal milk tea is good here as well. Go especially if you like lots of soft milky ice.
7. Patbingsoo @OkRooMong (옥루몽)
The following two places are similar types of chains and can be found all around Korea (an apparently LA and NYC too!). The traditional style patbingsoo here is much more creamy and milky, but the ice is still as soft as snow. It comes with red bean on top, inside of the snow and inside of the rice-cakes. They also serve sweet red bean porridge and pumpkin porridge which many Koreans love especially in the winter-time. If you like the softer ice that's really milk/creamy, you will love this place. The other flavour of bingsoo they have is green tea which I haven't tried yet (I'm actually not the biggest green tea flavoured product fan). Go if you like a milkier version of soft ice.
8. A Sweet Place (단팥집 - DanPatJib)
Similar to the above location, but slightly less milky. Has other flavours such as black sesame which is a popular at a lot places. The red bean is also slightly more softer here. A traditional drink called 미숫가루 (MiSootGaRu - a roasted grain powder) is served here and although it can be thick and filling, it goes really nicely with the milky ice of the bingsoos. This place and the above locations are great for a great classic bingo that can be found all over Seoul. Again, go if you like a milker version of soft ice.
9. Milk Patbingsoo @눈꽃 흐드러지다 (Noon Ggot Hederuhjidah)
This is one of my new favourite places for bingsoo and dukkbokki (spicy rice cakes) as a combination together! The bingsoo itself was very soft and flaky with delicious bits of dried dates, red bean in the inside, and soft rice-cake on top. It was the perfect combination of sweet, creamy, crunchy, soft and milky goodness all in one! And it complimented the spicy dukbokki very nicely as well. They had black sesame and a couple of other fruit flavours as well. This is the only location I know, and it is a lot smaller of a place than some of the many other chains. Go if you like patbingsoo and dukbokki - goes great together!
10. Pat BingSoo and Fruit BingSoo @호밀밭 (HoMealBat)
This is a really popular place in a student area near Yonsei and Edeh Universities. There is always a line here, the small space inside packed and the ice is very fine and soft. It almost melts too fast because it's so soft! They have original, green tea, coffee, strawberry, watermelon and fruit as options. The fruit is fresh and I liked the ice here. If it wasn't so far away and busy, I would probably go here more often. Go if you are in the area.
11. Milk Bingsoo and Royal Milk Tea Bingsoo @Paris Croissant
You probably wouldn't have thought that this would make the list, but the bingsoo here at this Hannamdong location is great! It is huge full of soft flaky ice, a bit of red bean and injulmee rice-cake. I haven't tried any other Paris croissant locations, but this one was great - this and the royal milk tea flavour. Hands down better than some other bakeries that I would never eat bingsoo (like Cafe Bene or anywhere else that has big ice chunks you practically have to chew through). The one in Hannam-dong is great.
There are a few other places that I've tried, but I don't want to bother posting and writing about other places that I wouldn't even recommend. There are also wayyy too many places that keep coming up to try all of the new bingsoo joints including coffee shops and bakeries.
I'll leave you with a couple more - the following aren't not highly recommended, but it's up to you to try them all!
DanJang YupEh GookHwaGoht, (담장 옆에 국화꽃)
This place is okay if you like certain types of pat bingsoo - it's a very old school flavour and traditional type of bingsoo. The strawberry one was a fail - way too artificial tasting w. canned strawberries, cheap ice-cream and syrup/jam (the "pat" was on the inside in case you were wondering). The persimmon one was also too sweet. The juice syrups just don't work for me.
I liked the old school flavours and combination of crunchy date pieces and injulmee rice cake on the original one, but I didn't like the chestnuts on it. I supposed it depends what ingredients you prefer, but overall these look and sound nice, but they weren't my favourite.
동빙고 (DongBingGo) in DongBoo Ichon Dong
This used to be one of my go-to favourite places to go. I used to love their Royal Milk Tea with the fried bits of coconut and soft ice. Key words: USED to love.
Where is your favourite bingsoo place in Seoul???