Shaved Ice Dessert (Bingsu) #2 with watermelon!! As I had mentioned before in my previous post on my traditional Bingsu, my ultimate favorite Korean shaved ice dessert is Subak Bingsu (수박 빙수). FYI, Subak (수박) = watermelon. Korean shaved ice dessert with watermelon needs only 3 ingredients – ice, watermelon and sweetened condensed milk. That’s it. If you like simple flavors or if you don’t want to buy any special Korean ingredients like Misugaru (미수가루) or sweet red beans (단팥 danpat), then this Subak Bingsu is for you.
But oh, in the picture, because I had a senior moment and forgot not to, I ended up adding some misugaru (Korean roasted grain powder). I did add mochi and blueberries because I just wanted to see how it was and that’s good too.
At Gami Bunsik (가미분식) near Ewha Womans University where I first met this amazing shaved ice dessert with watermelon, they also had another one called Ttalgi Bingsu (딸기 빙수) which was basically the same thing but with strawberries. I remember that every time it was such a huge dilemma for us – Strawberries or watermelon?? Decisions, decisions…hahaha.. sometimes we ordered two bingsu for the 4 of us which was a lot since Gami’s bingsu came in a huge glass bowl the size of a big salad bowl.
Before we go on, I think a little history on Bingsu should be pretty cool (haha) to talk about, don’t you think? 😉
Bing (빙) comes from the Chinese character (氷) for ice and Su(수) comes from (水) water. First record of Koreans storing and using ice dates back as far as 1396 during Joseon dynasty when two large ice storages (these were like tombs under a big mound of dirt) were built on the east side (동빙고 Dongbinggo 東氷庫) and west side (서빙고 Seobinggo 西氷庫) of Seoul to provide ice for the palace and government offices including individual high level officials where ice was rationed out according to rankings and time of year. You will see that there are two areas in Seoul that is called Dongbinggo Dong (동빙고동) and Seobinggo Dong(서빙고동) to this day and yes, that’s where these two huge ice storages existed in the past.
A fun fact about this is that there was even a special governing office called Naebinggo(내빙고) whose sole task was to manage the storage and inventory of ice stored at these two locations. If there was no ice left in storage for the royal chef to use in his kitchen and the time was still before the middle of fall, then….. the Secretary of Ice (I made the name up, hehe..but not the position, there was actually someone appointed by the King who was in charge) was punished for mismanagement. So aren’t you glad, you can use as much as ice as you want these days?? The things we take for granted..
Now, you may ask – Where did the ice come from? During the cold freezing Korean winter, huge blocks of ice were cut and harvested from the frozen Han river and then transported and stored at these two locations to last through the warm summer months.
Finally, where does Bingsu come in? There are records that mention the workers who worked at Dongbinggo and Seobinggo sometimes made fruit punch using crushed ice from bits of ice leftover after delivery. So there you go!! The origins of our lovely Korean Shaved Ice Dessert Bingsu!!!
FYI, if you wanted to visit such an ice storage today, there is one in Kyungju called Seokbinggo (석빙고) where you can see a tunnel like structure made with stones that even has a built-in drainage system for any collected water from the melting of the ice. The wisdom of our ancestors never ceases to amaze me~~
Shaved Ice Dessert with Watermelon
Servings 2 Time: 5 min Difficulty: easy
- ice shaver machine and ice (Note 1 serving = 2 cup in volume of shaved ice)
- 12 or or more flat scoops of watermelon (6 for each serving, enough to cover most of the ice)
- 4-6 Tbs sweetened condensed milk (2-3 Tbs for each serving)
- optionally, add mini mochi cake, misugaru (미수가루), blueberries
- Freeze enough ice in containers that come with ice shaver machines.
- Cut watermelon in half. The easiest way is to use a large spoon to just scoop out several spoons from half a watermelon.
You can also just cut into thin slices if you want but this is how Gami Bunsik serves it. 🙂
- Shave ice onto a bowl until you have a pretty good size mound. Ice melts pretty quickly so if you have too little ice in the bowl, it’s not going to work.
- Layer the watermelon on top of the ice, to cover the top.
- Spoon or drizzle about 2-3 Tbs of sweetened condensed milk. Start with 2 Tbs and see how you like it. Add more if needed.
- Serve immediately!! Optionally, add mini mochi and misugaru and maybe a few blue berries for color.
Besides watermelon and strawberries, you can also make this icy cool Shaved Ice Dessert with any of your favorite fruits and sweetened condensed milk. What are some of your favorite combinations?? I would love to hear them!!
Before I say goodbye, I wanted to share some photos I took during my last visit to Seoul. These photos were taken at a wonderful Bingsu place called Sobok (소복) at Hongdae University area of Seoul.
If you ever visit Seoul, Sobok is a place you do not want to miss. Unlike the more westernized Bingsu flavors like coffee, chocolate and mango that you see in many franchise places like Paris Baguette and Caffé Bene in Seoul these days, Sobok infuses more classic natural Korean flavors of brown rice, various grains and milk into their ice and also ice cream. Their classic bingsu is made with shaved rice+milk ice topped with rice ice cream, dried persimmon, sweet pumpkin, rice syrup and injeolmi (rice cake) which is then coated with nutty soy bean powder. All beautifully and elegantly arranged with a garnish of a single chrysanthemum flower.
The ice cream is not screamingly sweet or rich, it is just so delicately balanced with the nuttiness of the various healthy grains, slight sweetness from the rice syrup and then the smooth rich flavor from the milk. The toppings add a lot of interest and elegance. I kind of wish there was more of the toppings but other than that, it was a perfect fusion of authentic Korean flavors with the modern food called ice cream.
This is a little bit of a random pic but here’s a cute mobile that’s hanging inside the dessert shop, made from the eco-friendly recyclable bingsu cups and other bowls made from corn powder. Koreans love to add a touch of art wherever and whenever they can. 🙂
Well, hope this post cooled your day a little. 😅
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