The Korean Wave hits a new note in Singapore, from the Korean BBQ fad, to Korean stews, to K-pop, it has finally infiltrated the desserts scene in our sunny little island.
And what better dessert to battle this infamous heat than the Bingsu (빙수)? Bingsu (shaved ice with toppings) is a popular snack food found almost everywhere in Korea during the summer months. Believed to date back all the way to the Joseon Dynasty, the original bingsu was simple, served as finely broken ice chips topped with sweetened red bean porridge. In the years following its debut, the popularity of bingsu exploded across the nation, bringing with it an almost endless variety of bingsu types and flavor combinations. Today, many bingsus shy away from the predominantly bean taste and some even omit the red beans altogether. From the traditional red beans and ice “patbingsu” to complex mixes of ice cream and fruit, bingsus can easily be found in almost any coffee shop or bakery in Korea. (Source: Visit Korea – Bingsu)
Well, at least we no longer have to hop on a plane to get to an outlet and get our hands on the tantalizing dessert that the above description has so kindly teased our tastebuds with. The gloriously upgraded “ice-kachang” has flown over to our sunny little island to help us weather (no pun intended) the year-long summer.
My first visit to Bingo-jung was on a Friday night. I had gone past the outlet tons of times as a frequenter of Bukit Timah Plaza for my groceries and Korean food from Ming Jia (post to be up soon! How can I not post about this place) and really wanted to have a taste of what is all the rage these days.
The outlet was pretty well-filled at 8.30pm, with customers popping in to look for seats every 10 minutes. Turnover was fast enough and we quickly got a seat. The customers were mainly Secondary school children, fresh young couples, and Korean families—a good sign of the legitimacy of this shop. To top of the license of authenticity, a Korean lady ran the shop, and greeted us with a crisp “Annyeonghasaeyo” as we walked in.
Orders had to be placed at the counter, so we went with a classic—Matcha Bingsu. I really wanted to try the Injeolmi Bingsu, which is supposedly a more traditional one but I’ll leave that for next time.
We were pretty stumped as to how to eat this concoction when we picked up the huge gold 20 by 20 cm bowl from the counter. Past ice-kachang experience taught us that you are the author of how you eat your food, so this was how we decided to attack it:
- Pour the condensed milk (provided in a separate cup) over the mound—do not hold back, you’ll probably reach for more anyway
- Mix us the ice at the base a little with the cornflakes, red bean paste, and condensed milk
- Eat mix, with a bit of ice cream each time
The first mouthful was glorious. I didn’t expect such a taste would come out from a Korean Ice Kachang, clearly we’ve been missing out on something with our local fare. Rather than tasting like a messy confusing slushy of tau sar and breakfast cereal (ok I admit I had that image in mind), it tasted like a high-quality Asian milkshake. The condensed milk effectively bound all the components of the dish together and the ice was just enough to ensure that the dish wasn’t too sweet.
The ice-cold, creamy, sweet dessert, was well complemented by the crunchy cornflakes—I never like my foods flat, so a different texture/flavor is always a plus point for me.
Serves: 2 hungry people
OVERALL RATING: 8.25/10 (Taste: 4/5; Visual Appeal: 4.5/5; Value: 3.5/5; Gimme-more Factor: 4.5/5)
I don’t lie about my come back factors. We came back the next day for more, and Saturday nights are unbelievably busy. The queue takes longer to pass, and with so many families that visit, turnover time is even longer. At least the Korean lady was kind enough to help us point out tables with people who were already there for a while and had the highest potential of leaving, but because this time that I went, I was with my extended family, we took extra-long to get seated.
When we finally did, we ordered the Matcha Bigsu (again), the Choco Banana Bingsu, and the Oreo Bingsu to share. The portions were honestly large enough to feed all 10 of us, and the kinds really enjoyed the novelty of eating a mountainous dessert that look great and tasted even better.
This pile of gorgeous was what my sister was after when she saw it being consumed at another table the night before. Admittedly, it looked the most impressive, after all, it was topped with brownie chunks and bananas atop an even bigger bowl of ice, chocolate powder, and coco crunch— it also cost an additional $2. Reason enough to be infallible right? WRONG.
Maybe it was the lack of condensed milk (they didn’t provide one for this), but the overdose of chocolate made the entire dish feel very heavy (not in a physical sense of the word). The chocolate powder made it taste dry, plus the brownies, since they were the store-bought ones (much like how choco-pie) is bought, they too were dry, and seemed to only get wet by the melting ice, rather than soaked in delicious chocolaty-goodness. Plus, the fact that it was incredibly difficult to mix—the ice was like a caked igloo that set in the bottom of the giant bowl with the banana and brownie chunks occupying the entire top area so it was difficult to get our spoons in there to mix anything—was definitely a negative factor. Not something I’d go back to try again. Sorry.
Serves: 3-4 people
OVERALL RATING: 6.25/10 (Taste: 2.5/5; Visual Appeal: 4.5/5; Value: 2.5/5; Gimme-more Factor: 3/5)
We also ordered the Oreo Bingsu to pander to the requests of my kid cousins. I’ve always been skeptical about oreo-flavored things. Of course ANYTHING the kraft cookies grace will turn out to be tasty. Those cheap chocolate rounds with fattening cream in the center and its twist, lick, dunk motto is nothing short of a recipe for success. Also, the fact that it’s so passé and suited for the tastebuds of children. So I usually steer clear of that flavor unless the other person REALLY wants to eat it.
But I’m really glad that we ordered this. How can I describe the feeling of pure delight when I mixed it up and put that first scoop of Oreo Bingsu in my mouth? It was like reliving the joys of my childhood again, when a scoop of Oreo ice-cream was enough to make me happy.
They gave condensed milk for this one. I suppose the Vanilla ice-cream, Oreo cream center, whipped cream, and condensed milk really gave the Bingsu the creaminess needed to turn the pile of ice into something that tasted like a real Oreo ice-cream. But this trumps the regular Oreo ice-cream because its easy to dig into, you get twice the volume for the same amount of calories (who am I kidding), and the oreo chunks are BIG. What’s the point of Oreo-‘infused’ things where the Oreo remains a flavor? (Which is why I don’t understand Oreo cheesecakes and the like).
Serves: 2-3 people with the tastebuds of children
OVERALL RATING: 8.5/10 (Taste: 4.5/5; Visual Appeal: 4/5; Value: 4/5; Gimme-more Factor: 4.5/5)
There are also other items on the menu such as their Chewy Waffles and flavoured Lattes which I will come back to try. Definitely need to bring more friends here! Just not TOO soon, having had this two days in a row.
Bingo-jung is: an unexpected surprise.
Let’s hope: It never loses this quality.
Staff friendliness: 3.5/5; Ambience/Design: 3.5/5; Menu Variety: 4/5; Price: 3.5/5
OVERALL RATING: 7.25/10
(updated on 31 July 2015)
This was a great surprise. the soybean powder ran through the powdered ice and it was filled with hidden gems of chewy rice cakes! Unfortunately we had the chewy waffle with that as well, so we pretty much bit off more than we could chew.
Serves: 2 people
OVERALL RATING: 7.75/10 (Taste: 4/5; Visual Appeal: 4/5; Value: 4/5; Gimme-more Factor: 3.5/5)
Red Bean Chewy Waffle
This was a great surprise. the soybean powder ran through the powdered ic
Serves: 2 people
OVERALL RATING: 8.25/10 (Taste: 4/5; Visual Appeal: 4.5/5; Value: 3.5/5; Gimme-more Factor: 3.5/5)
102 Guillemard Road #01-01, Singapore 399719 // Nearest MRT: Mountbatten MRT
Opening Hours: 12pm – 11pm Daily