THE EXCITEMENT of the summer is fleeting, but the heat still lingers, unpleasantly moistening every nook and cranny of the sweat glands. This summer was supposed to be productive, full of fortuitous events, wild adventures, and maybe even a sweet budding of a summer romance. Instead, it consisted of blasting the air conditioner to the maximum and sitting at home watching friends on Facebook taking opulent trips to Europe. Well, hold onto that last grappling hook left of summer and come on this zany adventure offering the sweet summer splash you desperately deserve.
This particular adventure consists of an unconventional scavenger hunt, tracking down the eccentric forms of our most beloved Korean dessert, bing-soo. Bing-soo is a form of shaved ice usually served with red bean paste, fruits, mochi, and sweetened condensed milk. Do not be fooled by the healthy-sounding ingredients, though. It is loaded with sugar and bombarded with calories. The bing-soos found on this spontaneous trip were a testament to individual creativity and the flowering of Korean eateries. So one day, over 3,000 calories, no regrets: sounds like summer. Let’s get started.
Just can’t get enough of that rice
First stop, Gangnam. Psy did a well-summarized introduction of Gangnam in his number one hit-song “Gangnam-style,” so a long description of this place seems redundant. However, Gangnam consist of more than just catchy dance moves and a viral music video on YouTube. It is the mecca of new trends in Korean food, clothing, and culture. Whatever Gangnam says, goes. So it was not too surprising that a delightful variation of a bing-soo was found here. This healthy-looking traditional Korean meal does not actually consist of rice, kimchi, and yellow radish, like it seems, but ice, mango, strawberry, and red bean paste instead. Its cute name, bap-bing-soo, with bap meaning rice, will be a fresh treat to a fresh start of your journey. This dessert is perfect for those moments when your mother reprimands you to finish your meal before you eat dessert, and then you would so cleverly exclaim, “but mom, this is my meal!”, while savoring the sweetened ice shavings in the shape of rice. This place was hidden in one of the alleyways nearby Gangnam station and was not easy to find. Bear with the suffocating heat and the sweaty fabric clinging onto your body for one more minute! One bite of this refreshing treat will immediately enliven you with its soft texture and delicious taste. A bowl of this bing-soo would give you the enough fuel to proceed onto your next location by taking the 2nd subway line and transferring onto the 1st, to Yeok-gok station.
Give me some of that Market-lovin’
Yeok-gok station is in Bu-cheon, a bustling outer-city area. Two minutes away from Yeok-gok station, this delectable bing-soo in the form of a flower pot can be found. As realistic as the pot may seem, the flower is actually just a decoration and the soil on top is in fact chocolate crumbles, and underneath are crunchy ice, cereals, and fruits. The gummy worms and stone chocolates on top make a realistic and playful resemblance of a flower pot and give life to everything we wanted as a child. Neighboring this quirky café that sells the flower pot bing-soo, lies a very lively Korean traditional market, Yeok-gok market. It is teeming with fresh produce, eccentric paraphernalia, and mouthwatering street food. This market offers much more, however. It has its own specialized band, ban-o-lim, that gives out heart-warming performances in this area. Tourists also visit for its well-known library that offers various cultural experiences like handwriting, guitar, and flower arranging classes. So this area not only provides you with ample opportunity to experience enlightening courses, but also indulge in the gaiety of Korean traditional markets, and relish the nectars of flower pot bing-soo.
After completely indulging in the liveliness that Yeok-gok emits, jump back on the 1st subway line and travel to its last station, In-cheon. The subway journeys above ground, displaying a vast panoramic scene of rustic railroads and idyllic landscape. This trip will satiate your hunger for romantic railroad trips as well as enticing sweet desserts. So feast your eyes and your tongue because next on our list is: jja-jang bing-soo. Jja-jang-myeon is a noodle dish topped with a black fermented soybean sauce and sells mostly in Chinese restaurants in Korea. It is so widely beloved all over the country that a bing-soo was made in its honor. This jja-jang bing-soo can only be found in dong-hwa ma-eul, also known as the fairy tale village, 10 minutes away from In-cheon station. Once you step in, it is almost as having entered another dimension like entering Narnia through the closet, because you are faced with an endless street full of candied houses, sugary sweet parlors, and adorable Disney toy shops. This fairy tale village is a dream-come-true for every child. The magical quality of this village comes to life with its fairy tale themed murals, and vendors dressed in princess ball gowns and brightly colored roofs. Every alley emitted a different gaiety, full of life and the laughter of children.
Not to be distracted from the original purpose of coming here, find the café camouflaged as a pink castle and you will find the much applauded jja-jang bing-soo. Displaying an uncanny resemblance to the original jja-jang-myeon, it is topped with red bean paste and noodle-shaped ice cream with ice shavings underneath. To enjoy this with more flavor, manually inject sweetened condensed milk, mango syrup, and strawberry syrup into the mixture. The plate is an absolute delight, complete with a side of fresh fruit and topped off with sweet ice cream. A perfect finale to our perfect trip.
In an original Netflix comedy series called “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” the female protagonist, Kimmy, escapes to New York after being trapped underground by a crazy pastor for 15 years. While euphorically touring herself around New York, she enters into a candy shop and fills a bag full of jelly beans while she gleefully exclaims, “I can have these for dinner!” Well, assuming our readers all live without the constant supervision of over-protective parents or crazy pastors, it would warm my heart to hear all our readers shout, upon reading this article, “Well, I’m having bing-soo for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!” Be spontaneous, be bold, and be vivacious on this trip. There is no better way to indulge your freedom than savoring sweet dessert platters all day while touring through the colorful mosaics of the Korean scenery. So, viva bing-soo!