9 July 2014
I decided today would be the day I'd try a bingsu. A bingsu is a special Korean summer treat of shaved ice flakes with fruit and sweet azuki beans and maybe cookies or bits of cake, and some kind of liquid added to make it tasty.
There was one place that makes smaller bingsus, but they have mango, my personal kryptonite. (As in allergic.)
So I opted for a bingsu in a flavour I like, planning to not eat the entire thing. Bingsus mostly come sized for two or more to share.
I went to Caffé Bene, a coffee chain here in Korea that has branches around the world. www.caffebene.co.kr
I had a nice sort-of-chat with the young lady behind the counter, who speaks as much English as I do Korean - thus mostly menu. I'd point at one bingsu picture, she'd tell me what flavour it was. We got stuck at "razpinny" - I'm not sure what it was. We also discussed whether or not they had decaf for the coffee bingsu, with me acting out too-much-coffee woman versus "and here is coffee with no caffeine" - to discover that no, they do not have decaf.
Okay, so I got the coffee bingsu, figuring at least I would end up with sort of iced coffee at the end.
The bingsu was a huge plastic bowl of shaved ice, with several shots of espresso poured over it. Then sweet azuki beans piled in the middle, with crunchy things around it - almonds, a few cashews, and what I swear were chocolate corn flakes. Topped with a small scoop of coffee gelato. A few chocolate chips. And one little Caffé Bene signature chocolate emblem. WOW!
I was told to mix it all up and eat it that way, but, well, I'm a picky eater at times. I'm not fond of sweetened azuki beans, I find the beans overcooked and too sweet most of the time. And I had to pick out the cashews because they're actually related to mangoes, so they're like para-kryptonite.
I tried the gelato with some of the shaved ice coffee. Sort of a weird combination. I tried adding a little bit of nuts. Okay, so icy coffee gelato and nuts, not bad. Icy coffee gelato and chocolate corn flakes? Weird. All in all, the taste was good - but the combination was a little strange. And the ice flakes made everything taste, well, LESS. Watered down. And at times my mouth was so cold I could barely taste anything anyway.
I finally pushed most of the beans off to one side and scooped the icy flakes and coffee into another cup, and took that home - it was essentially a coffee frappé, the original frappuccino but without the milk.
So I give bingsus an okay - it may be an acquired taste. It may be that a fruit bingsu would be tastier, but I was afraid the berries would freeze. And, well, again I had no idea what liquid was added and I didn't want something super sugary and syrupy.
It was an adventure, I've always liked eating ice so I've been intrigued by bingsus. And now I know.
I balanced this super sweet snack with a very healthy arugula pizza smothered in wonderful arugula and cherry tomatoes - so good, and so much healthier! Best pizza we've had in this part of the world (sorry Australia, but you really don't make very Italian pizza) - I can't find a website, but the place is Antonio's, just down the road a few blocks from the Nambu Bus Terminal. Wonderful pizza made in a genuine fire-heated pizza oven. So good!