The most amazing thing we discovered in South Korea is Bingsu. Now I know I use superlatives a lot, but this time it’s 100% worthy. Bingsu is Korean Shaved Ice. No,… it’s next level shaved ice and you’re about to find out just what that means.
Get ready, because this article is going to change your life.
We are going to tell you everything you need to know about what Bingsu is, where you can get it, and how easy it is to make it at home with the best shaved ice machine on Amazon.
How to Make Bingsu at Home (빙수):
Korea’s Best Kept Secret
What is Bingsu?
Bingsu is Korean Shaved Ice, like we said, but you might also hear Bingsu called Snowflake Dessert or Snow Desert, or the most proper of names: Patbingsu. There is a bit of a difference between these four monikers, but the most important distinction is that they are all made from a very super special secret ingredient.
Keep reading, because we are going to reveal what that ingredient is in a few moments…
In Korean, bingsu is the word for shaved ice; pat is the word for beans. Traditionally Patbingsu is made by topping the shaved ice with a sweetened red bean paste, plus corn flakes cereal and fruit cocktail.
Bingsu is not just the shorted derivation of Patbingsu, but is the the evolution of the desert itself. It retains the shaved ice part of the dessert and elevates it with a more modern version. Bingsu is topped with anything and everything you can think of from brownies to cookies to macarons to fruit to cheesecake and more!
- Snowflake Dessert
This typically refers to something like Bingsu, or even something trying to pass for Bingsu, but it’s not the real thing. It’s typically ice cream or sorbet that is shaved into thin ribbons and topped high with fruit.
- Snow Desert
This is a mix of Bingsu and Shaved Ice, created by mixing components of each to create something less Korean and more Taiwanese.
What is the difference between Bingsu and Shaved Ice?
Traditional shaved ice is small chunks of ice, tightly packed into a cup or cone and covered with flavored sugar. Depending on where you get your Shave, or Shaved Ice, depends on how small the chunks of ice are, but the concept is the same. And Tiger’s Blood is always the best flavor, amiright?
In short, Shaved Ice is sugar on water. The best shaved ice establishments even offer more sugar on top of the sugar that is on top of the water.
Bingsu, on the other hand, is so much more than sugar water. In fact, it’s not actually made of ice, despite the fact that it’s called Korean Shaved Ice. Bingsu is made from a very super special secret ingredient called… milk! Yes, it’s made from shaved milk! That’s where it got the name snow dessert.
What’s weird is that shaved ice looks like snow too, because technically snow is frozen water. When shaved ice melts it’s clear, just like real snow, whereas shaved milk doesn’t really resemble snow because when it melts, it’s still white and fatty.
It doesn’t make any sense, so don’t think too hard about it.
On top of the shaved milk, Bingsu comes with a combination of ice cream, condensed milk, evaporated milk, whipped cream and all the toppings in the world. Using frozen milk, instead of ice, lends to a much creamier, much more delicate, and much more ethereal taste that just simply melts in your mouth.
It’s fancy ice cream, or a milkshake in a bowl, or Hawaii meets Coldstone. It’s complicated, because in Korea the more complicated something is the more valuable it is. No matter what it is, it’s paradise.
Why Do They Use Milk Instead of Ice for Bingsu?
Before freezers were invented, ice harvesters would collect ice from the Han River each winter when it would freeze over and take it to the “royal ice box” at the palace. Yes Kristoff, from Disney’s Frozen, had a real job.
Every winter the King would appoint an Ice Keeper. The ice keeper worked under the royal chef allocating how much ice could be used throughout the year. His sole responsibility was to ration the ice so that it lasted from spring through fall. If the ice keeper failed, his neck was on the line – literally.
When the ice came from the Han River, bits would fall off and be collected by peasants who would trail behind the harvesters. They would take the bits of ice and add fruit punch to it! No one seems to know what happened next, other than during the Korean War the US soldiers are responsible for the Koreans developing a sweet tooth.
Origins of Bingsu
They took it and ran with it.
My best guess, which is wildly speculative, is that one day Korean soldiers were out in a field taking a break from their duties, probably telling jokes. They decided to mix up some patbingsu for a treat.
Beans and water obviously don’t taste all that good, so back then they didn’t finish the entire serving. When they’d had enough the soldiers left their bowl out in the field, still half full.
Out of nowhere, a cow began walking across the field and made a beeline directly for the bowl. Cows aren’t known for being particularly agile, so being unable to avoid the bowl, the cow tripped into the bowl and fell flat on its side!
In between fits of laughing, one Korean soldier noticed the cow’s massively large udders were covered in red bean paste as a result. Like magic, everything clicked! The soldier realized how much better this Korean dessert could taste if it was made with frozen milk.
Seems like the most likely story.
Where Can I Get Shaved Ice in Korea?
We discovered Bingsu during our three month stay living in Songdo, South Korea. We were in Korea during sambok, the dog days of summer, and Bingsu is the only reason we survived the outdoor shower that is 100% humidity. We found it everywhere, but most prevalent at Ediya Coffee, Paris Best, Twosome Desserts, Triple Street, you name it.
Where is the Best Bingsu?
We tried it everywhere, but none were as good as Sulbing.
► Ranking: #cleandiaper (so clean it’s potty trained)
Korean Dessert Cafe
Hours: Sunday thru Saturday 10:30am – 10pm
If Elizabeth Barret Browning were writing sonnets today, she’d be counting the ways she loves Sulbing in iambic pentameter.
What sets Sulbing apart from other places selling Bingsu is how truly beautiful their creations are. They are stunning works of art. Check out the unveiling of these extraordinary creations…
The brownie bingsu comes with chunks of cheesecake and brownies, then topped with cocoa powder, ice cream and whipped cream.
Our fruit bingsu was loaded with raspberries and strawberries, topped with ice cream and half a muskmelon. This was our favorite, and when we came back time and time again to give Sulbing Korean Dessert Cafe all of our money, we always ordered this.
Miss Molasses was never disappointed with her share of the melon.
Each order of Bingsu is a bit spendy starting at ₩12,000 each, but they are large. The bowls are generous and will easily feed two or more people without anyone feeling like they don’t get enough. Our ravenous family of six had a hard time polishing off two of them, but in the end we succeeded.
How Do You Eat Bingsu?
Like we said, everything in Korea is complicated, especially the food. Bingsu is no exception. The idea is that you destroy this work of art by mashing everything up, pour sweetened condensed milk over it, and stirring the ingredients into a base mix.
Then, enjoy every luscious bite!
As a parent you know nothing that pretty is going to last long. This is the one time, as a parent, you can be happy you can’t have nice things. Or can you? Oh, the irony!
How to Make Shaved Ice Bingsu At Home
So naturally, after falling in love with Bingsu in Korea we had to duplicate it at home. It really doesn’t seem that hard to mess up, even though there were a lot of places in Korea that did a dang good job of ruining it.
It’s so easy to make shaved ice for bingsu at home with this Bingsu Machine.
- Step 1: Order the Little Snowie 2! (We may receive a commission from this link at no additional cost to you.)
- Step 2: Freeze milk in ice cube trays (milk can be made in advance and stored in containers in the freezer).
- Step 3: Mix sweetened condensed milk half and half with evaporated milk. Set aside.
- Step 4: Cut fruit, cookies, cream cheese, and other delicious toppings for your bingsu. Set aside.
- Step 5: Remove milk cubes from tray and put 4-6 milk cubes in the Little Snowie 2. Use a cup to catch the shavings – a standard plastic cup will fit perfectly in the depository. Hold down the lid to shave and fill cup 3/4 full.
- Step 6: Depress the lid and move cup to the side of the Little Snowie 2. Add 1 spoonful of ice cream.
- Step 7: Top shaved ice milk with fruit or favorite toppings.
- Step 8: Cover shaved ice milk, fruit and ice cream with one to two tablespoons of sweetened milk mixture.
- Step 9: Stir to combine and enjoy your Bingsu!
Best Shaved Ice Machine
For your at home needs, you want the Little Snowie 2 Korean Shaved Ice Machine.
Our last week in Korea we spent a long time researching the best shaved ice machine to make our beloved bingsu at home. We ordered The Little Snowie 2 and tried it out for our first bingsu creation.
This little bingsu machine makes the perfect shaved snow! It’s finely shaved, super thin, no crunchy bits. The machine is super easy use with no complicated parts or inserts, and comes shipped ready to use.
It also comes with several snow cone syrup samples if you want to ignore all our advice and simply go with sugar and water.
Not to mention, it’s just as easy to clean!
There is no limit to the types of Bingsu you can make at home. Other than adding different types of cookies or fruit, the easiest way to change the flavor is by adding a different type of ice cream.
These are just a few of our favorite Bingsu recipes we’ve created!
Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Bingsu
- Shaved Milk
- Peanut Butter Chocolate Fudge Ice Cream
- Sweetened Condensed Milk
- Scoop of All Natural Peanut Butter
- Sliced Bananas
- Chocolate Syrup
- Peanut Butter Whipped Cream
Chocolate Banana Bingsu
- Chocolate Shaved Milk
- Sliced Bananas
- Vanilla Ice Cream
- Sweetened Condensed Milk
- Chocolate Syrup
- Whipped Cream
- Shaved Milk
- Strawberry Ice Cream
- Sliced Strawberries
- Sweetened Condensed Milk
- Lemon Whipped Cream
► For Kids: Bingsu is a great treat for the entire family. It’s something little kids can easily put together themselves, and can open a child’s imagination to all sorts of possible creations!
Another way to beat the heat in Korea is to find the nearest popsicle store! There is one around every corner with the most interesting and unique flavors of popsicles you’ll ever find!
► What We Learned: Korean’s have the edge on the Shaved Ice game.
What shaved ice creations can you think of?
► Nap-Time Version: How to make the Bingsu at home with the best shaved ice machine you can find on Amazon.
Our other favorite thing we did in South Korea? We almost nearly not really met Kim Jung Un on our Korea DMZ Tour.