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Reimagined bingsu offers new ways to beat the heat : Hotels and retailers get creative with summer’s most popular icy treat

June 21,2017
Many of the local hotels and retails are unveiling their unique version of bingsu, shaved ice, for the season. From left: Mont Blanc Bingsu from JW Marriott Dongdaemun Square Seoul, Mango bingsu from Westin Chosun Seoul, Stawberry Rare Cheese Cake at A Twosome Place, served with both bingsu and a cake made with similar ingredients to complete each other; Papico, originally a sherbet in a tube, transformed itself as bingsu in a cup by Homeplus and Lotte Food; Mango Bingsu from Intercontinental hotels in Seoul, which offers a take-out bingsu menu. [EACH HOTEL AND RETAILER]
Top: Hello Kitty Bingsu, left, with assorted mini-desserts served at JW Marriott Dongdaemun Square Seoul. Bottom: Makeolli Bingsu made with ice and cream with a type of fermented rice drink served at Park Hyatt Seoul. [EACH HOTEL]
For as long as anyone can remember, shaved ice, a classic summertime treat, has been served without much variation - a mound of thinly-sliced ice is usually covered in sweet red beans or fruit and drizzled in condensed milk. But as the temperature heats up, hotels and retailers are getting creative to make the icy plates more visually appealing.

The JW Marriott Dongdaemun Square Seoul in central Seoul started to think outside of the box and question why bingsu, the Korean term for shaved ice, always ends up looking the same.

This year, the hotel is offering shaved ice in unique packages - inside a soft sponge cake or covered in cream, so that one can’t even tell that what they are looking at is in fact a cold dessert.

Its Mont Blanc Bingsu looks like the classic French dessert of the same name, which is made with chestnut cream on the exterior and whipped cream inside. After scooping into the triangle-shaped exterior, the milky shaved ice inside immediately provides a refreshingly cool blast of flavor. To make the bingsu even sweeter and more “adult”, the hotel serves the icy dessert with a small jar of rum.

The hotel’s signature dessert, the Dom Bingsu, adds Dom Perignon Champagne to the mix and has been a hit since the hotel opened in 2014.

The hotel’s chefs went even further when imagining another way to combine bingsu and sponge cake. It first baked a round cake to hold shaved ice and seasonal fruits. When served, one can simply open the lid decorated with a red ribbon. The dish also comes with assorted mini-desserts printed with the face of Hello Kitty.

The Hello Kitty Bingsu is 42,000 won ($37) including tax.

The Westin Chosun in central Seoul takes an innovative approach to shaved ice by playing with the texture of the ingredients. Considering the popularity of bingsu with mango on top over the past few years, the hotel has decided to add a twist to its bright-yellow bingsu by using nitrogen gas. Chefs grind mangos and then infuse them with gas, making the fruit foam-like. The hotel piles up the shaved ice first, and then puts what looks like a mango puree all over the dish to make each bite quickly melt in the mouth.

Embracing the taste of Korea not only for locals but also for foreign visitors hoping to make the most out of their stay in Seoul, Park Hyatt Seoul in southern Seoul, offers Makgeolli Bingsu. The shaved ice is made with a fermented rice drink called woogokju and some cream, and topped with heaps of colorful berries. For children, the hotel offers a similar dish made with milk ice and cream.

Some retailers are also stepping up their bingsu offerings to attract customers. A Twosome Place, a popular dessert cafe, serves a piece of cake with its bingsu so that dessert lovers don’t need to debate whether to choose between the icy dessert or their favorite cake. Strawberry bingsu is served with strawberry cheesecake, and mango bingsu comes with a slice of mango cheesecake. The price starts at 12,000 won.

Homeplus, together with Lotte Food, is transforming classic ice cream flavors into a bingsu-like treat. Two of Lotte’s iconic ice creams, Papico and Amatna, have been re-imagined into icy treats that have a texture similar to shaved ice. Papico, originally a chocolate sherbet in a tube, keeps its distinct flavor. The new version is served in a cup. Amatna, normally a bar-shaped ice cream with red beans inside, is served in a cup for its bingsu variation. Each is 1,500 won and can only be found at Homeplus outlets.

Although it is uncommon for bingsu to be available for take out because the ice will melt quickly under the scorching sun, some hotels are offering a way to enjoy the tasty treat at home. The two Intercontinental hotels in Korea, Grand Intercontinental Seoul Parnas and Intercontinental Seoul Coex, both in southern Seoul, offer the same menu, and a take out version of a classic bingsu with milky ice and red beans costs 10,000 won. Four Seasons Hotel Seoul in central Seoul, also offers bingsu to-go starting at 18,000 won. It offers a classic bingsu with red beans, berry bingsu, basil and orange bingsu and mango and coconut bingsu.

BY LEE SUN-MIN [summerlee@joongang.co.kr]