Frozen desserts are at the heart of the best summer memories, and many cultures have their own popular versions. From ices and ice creams to soft serve and frozen yogurt, it’s hard to deny the nostalgic appeal and refreshing nature of frozen treats.
One icy treat gaining ground in international cuisine is bingsu, a Korean dessert made from frozen ice or milk, shaved to create a cloudlike confection that is then paired with fruits, syrups, and any number of toppings.
This versatile snowy treat seems to evolve at the speed of light. Served in chain cafés and boutique shops alike, eye-catching, melt-in-your-mouth bingsu has become a global phenomenon over the last few years, sliding into the niche of small luxuries that everyone can afford. What’s new in this premium shaved ice market?
Red bean paste is a staple ingredient in Asian cuisine, and this mildly sweet jam frequently finds its way into desserts. Patbingsu, or red bean shaved ice, is among the most popular flavors found in Korea.
This treat can be served simply, topped with red bean paste and drizzled with condensed milk, or it could be paired with a rainbow of fresh fruit, jelly candies, or mochi bites. For something a bit off the beaten path, try pairing this subtle flavor profile with crunchy toppings like candied bacon or children’s breakfast cereal.
This domed dessert is cosmically spectacular and designed to look like a planet, with a hemisphere of chocolate topped by a swirl of colorful caramel syrups in red, blue, and purple.
Once poured, the syrups become a vibrant, glassy glaze that earns this unique dessert its name. Breaking the shell to get at the shaved ice within requires a small hammer, adding to the fun of the experience.
Mugwort is probably best known as a medicinal herb used to treat ailments like digestive disorders and hypertension, so it’s a surprising choice to pair with frozen desserts.
That hasn’t stopped adventurous confectioners from trying to turn mugwort into the next green tea. It can be added to bingsu in the form of mugwort milk sauce, ice cream, jelly, and more.
With a tart, refreshing flavor often compared to mint and juniper, mugwort can skew savory or sweet. Bingsu preparations are typically mildly sweet and may be paired with other traditional toppings, like red bean paste and rice cakes.
Refreshing summer melons are a perfect complement to shaved ice, and the fruit itself serves as an impressive receptacle for the finished dessert. Typically, the flesh of the melon is removed, and milk-based bingsu is piled high in a hemisphere of rind, often paired with berries and cheesecake cubes.
From there, the melon is added back. Sometimes it’s cubed or balled, but for a truly eye-catching presentation, it may be scooped into a dome and placed on top. Honeydew is the most common melon used, although cantaloupe and watermelon are also delicious.
Other Dessert Pairings
For international audiences, bingsu can be modified in endless ways to reflect local cultural and culinary preferences. It’s no surprise, then, that this shaved ice is frequently paired with other desserts.
Strawberry cheesecake bingsu, featuring fresh strawberries and cheesecake cubes, is a satisfying summer dessert, and this combo can often be found in a melon bowl as well. Other pairings include rich confections like tiramisu and crème brûlée, and toppings like brownie bites, sprinkles, or crumbled Oreos can tempt American consumers.
Bingsu is an incredibly versatile dessert that can be made to suit every taste and accommodate the favorite flavors of any culture and cuisine. Chefs looking to add international flair to their dessert menus are sure to get a lot of interest from this summer treat, especially with a creative approach to flavors and toppings.
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