Monday, February 28, 2011

Lost In Translation: Bingsoo In February

I'd like to say that I thought that ice would be less frigid in Korean.

The truth is that I wasn't thinking at all.

We ate Chinese-Korean for dinner on Saturday night.  (More on that another day.)  We saved room for frozen yogurt, but when we walked outside, we knew it was too cold.  So we headed to Bon Appetit Bakery on Rte 40 for something that wasn't ice cream.

Somehow, I ended up with a bowl of ice.

We grabbed a bag of cookies to take home.  For dessert on the spot, we looked at all the cakes.  Then I got overly excited and remembered that Bon Appetit serves bingsoo.  Bingsoo is a Korean dessert made with shaved ice, milk, and fruit.  I ordered my first red bean bingsoo without really thinking, and we ended up at a table waiting for our dessert.

I got a bowl of ice bigger than the dinner that I had just eaten.  The young woman delivered it with two spoons and a quizzical look.  She poured a little chocolate sauce.  When we started to spoon up raw ice with chocolate powder, she suggested that everything be mixed together.  (Duh!!)  You mix from the botton, and up comes mochi, red beans, a syrup, fruit, ice and milk.

Within minutes, I had basically a sweet soup.  The flavor was sweet like chocolate. The texture was a big more exotic.  It's actually red beans, ice, mochi and canned fruit.  Nothing weird, but not exactly a banana split.  You get the chocolate flavor with the chewy mochi and shaved ice.  Canned fruit isn't my favorite, but it worked.  One bingsoo would serve two or three people.

Within minutes, it had me shivering in my chair.  Bon Appetit sells beautiful cakes, and the room filled with people eating cake and drinking hot coffee.  Coffee because it was a late February night.  Everyone in the room had a cup of coffee.  I was spooning ice into my mouth.

About this point, we started to laugh.  We imagined the young woman wondering why we'd ordered bingsoo in the cold and why we didn't know to mix it up.  We imagined these guys sipping coffee wondering why I was eating a summer dessert.  It seemed rude to leave a half-full dessert, so I kept eating.  We kept giggling.  It was only afterwards that I checked Wikipedia:
Patbingsu or patbingsoo (팥빙수) is a very popular snack/dessert in South Korea, especially during the sweltering and humid summer season.
"Sweltering and humid summer season."  Read that again?  Put Bon Appetit on your summer calendar to try your own bingsoo.


Anonymous said...

Sounds a lot like Halo-Halo, a Filipino desert my wife makes in the summer.

Min said...

We saw a couple sitting next to our table order the Green Tea Binsoo last weekend at Bon Appetit Bakery, after the Han Joon Kwan lunch (they too.)

There's a Taiwan heat quencher in the same category: Tsua-Bing (literally shaved ice). The basic version starts with a bowl of shaved ice with some syrup. The next level up is to add condensed milk. Usually vendors offer a dozen or so choices, and you choose 4 to 8 items (think those little trays in frozen yogurt places) such as sweetened mung beans, red beans, cubes of melt in your mouth taros, jello made from local herbs, mango and other fresh fruits, mini size flans from a dozen or so selections. Then you decide on the minor details such as extra or less syrup, with or without condensed milk, etc. Finally, the vendor delivers the custom-made Tsua-bing to your table.

kam said...

Gets pretty hot and humid during the summer here, so I'll look forward to trying it then. I keep wanting to go back to Bon Appetit for some of their more savory pastries (not the pizza bread, but a few others), as I really liked the samples I tried last time. Maybe I'll do another HowChow Route 40 bakery run; last time was Kolache Kreations and Bon Appetit, and I thoroughly enjoyed both.


Anonymous said...

This looks like a bowl of dirt with a few rocks. I hope it tastes a lot better than it looks.

HowChow said...

@Anon -- And that's the way it looked when we started to eat. You can see why the waitress quickly recommended that we stir up the dish. That powder ("dirt") mixed into the ice and the condensed milk.