Unique Dessert Treats in Seoul
Bingsu, a class Korean dessert, has been around since the Joseon era and in the past, it was only popular in the summer. But as the summer grew longer and food culture changed, an increasing number of establishments are now selling bingsu year round. Originally, bingsu was just broken up ice topped with red azuki beans. This variety of bingsu is the most representative of Korean bingsu even today, but for young people who like to try new and unique desserts, this may not be enough. Read on for the Korea Tourism Organization’s top ten unique dessert treats.
Danggojip, offering various dango flavors
Danggojip is the only place in Korea that specializes in Japanese danggo (danja), a type of rice cake made of glutinous rice flour that has been steamed and shaped into round balls, and then served on a skewer. Peanut powder can be sprinkled on top. It is a common street food in Japan. Popular at the café is the cherry blossom bingsu, which is a milk bingsu topped with cherry blossoms, a symbol of Japan, red azuki beans, strawberries, and a pink sauce. The dish is a pleasure to both see and taste. Try their popular bingsu, and if you are still not full, order from some of their ten danggos or even a Japanese meal. Some of the restaurant’s clientele include artists from the Hongdae area and celebrity actor Cha Seungwon.
- Address (Hongdae branch): 5, Eoulmadang-ro 3-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul
- Direction: Get off at Sangsu Station (Seoul Subway Line 6) Exit 4, go straight for 200 meters and turn left at the four-way intersection. Then, turn right at the first alley.
- Hours: 12:00 – 22:00 (Open all year round)
- Menu: Cherry blossom bingsu 8,000 won/ sweet red bean danggo bingsu 7,500 won/ danggo 1,500 won/ drinks 4,500 won and above
- Website: http://www.dangojip.com/ (Korean)
- Phone: +82-70-7573-3164 (Korean)
- Tip. At the Sangam & Myeong-dong branches take-out is available
Sobok, healthy and delicious treats
An establishment that emphasizes natural flavors, Sobok first opened in the Hongik University area in early 2014. It offers fresh and nutty ice cream prepared daily every morning with brown rice and various grains and mixed with milk. In general bingsu is made with shaved ice topped with various ingredients, but the bingsu at Sobok is made with grain ice cream topped with sweet pumpkin, dried persimmon, rice cakes, grain syrup, and other natural ingredients all served in small amounts, and then garnished with a small chrysanthemum flower. The paper bowl the bingsu is served in is also environmentally friendly as it is made of corn powder. Sobok only serves three items. The most popular is the injeolmi ice bowl made of injeolmi powder (bean flour), which can be served to-go.
- Address: 58, Eoulmadang-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul
- Direction: Get off at Sangsu Station (Seoul Subway Line 6) Exit 1 and make an immediate u-turn. Walk to the 7-Eleven and take a left. Walk to the end of the street and Sobok will be located up ahead on the left.
- Hours: 14:00 – 23:00 (Open all year round)
- Menu: Ice cream - 5,200 won/ snowflake bingsu - 6,800 won/ injeolmi ice balls (9x) -7,500 won
- Phone: +82-2-6014-0861 (Korean)
Imi, where fresh cream and oranges meet
Imi is located in Seogyo-dong, a quiet neighborhood near Hongik University. This café is run by two brothers, one is the barista and the other is the baker. The fresh cream orange bingsu is a unique bingsu served at Imi. It is topped with fresh cream, so much so that it looks like coffee. Take a spoonful of it, and you will instantly feel rejuvenated by the refreshing orange taste. Also popular, especially among the young female clientele, is the French-style cake made of oranges and cheese.
- Address: 7, Donggyo-ro 25-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul
- Direction: Get off at Hongik University Station (Seoul Subway Line 2 & Airport Railroad Line) Exit 1, go straight and turn right at the four-way intersection. Then, turn left in the first alley.
- Hours: 11:30 – 23:00 (Closed on Seollal day and Chuseok day)
- Menu: Whipped cream orange bingsu 6,000 won (1 person), 12,000 won (2 people)/ orange cheese cake 5,000 won
- Website: www.facebook.com/imisns (Korean)
- Phone: +82-2-6368-5228 (Korean)
Ice cream bungeoppang, a delicious street snack
Bungeoppang, fish-shaped bread filled with red bean paste, is a common winter-time snack in Korea. But at A-bung, this treat takes on a new flavor during the summer. They serve three flavors of ice cream bungeoppang, which became instantly popular online thanks to its pretty and unique shape. The big-size bungeoppang features red azuki beans, fresh cream, or sweet potato sauce, and comes topped with ice cream and a skewer of chocolate fruit. This establishment has branches in Ewha University, Hongik University, Chuncheon, Ilsan, and Seong-dong.
- Address (Ewha Univ. branch): 10, Ewhayeodae 2-gil, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul
- Direction: Get off at Ewha University Station (Seoul Subway Line 2) Exit 2, go straight and turn left at Ewhayeodae 1-gil. Then, go straight.
- Hours: 11:00 – 21:00 (Closed on the first and third Tuesday of every month)
- Website: www.aboong.net (Korean)
- Menu: Ice cream bungeobbang 3,000 won/ chocolate fruit stick 1,000 won
Penguin Macaroon, where lines form in an instant
Penguin Macaroon is the first ice cream shop to offer macaroon ice cream sandwiches in Korea. All the macaroons and ice cream sold at Penguin Macaroon are made the same day, which is why it opens at 6 p.m. on weekdays. When the store’s opening hour approaches, a long line of people begins to form in front of the store. The ice cream sandwiches are available in limited quantities only, so the store closes when they are sold out. There are five flavors of ice cream: green tea, fresh cream cheese, strawberry, banana, and chocolate. When you order ice cream, it will be served between the macaroons that go best with it (the colors of the macaroons change every day). Some say that macaroons are too sweet, but eat it with ice cream and you will quickly agree that the two are a perfect match.
- Address: 258-15, Changgyeonggung-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
- Direction: Get off at Hyehwa Station (Seoul Subway Line 4) Exit 4, go straight for 50 meters and turn right.
- Hours: 18:00 until sold out (opens at 17:00 on weekends)
- Menu: Macaroon ice cream sandwich 2,900 won
Gaongill, a trip to classic taste
Gaongill is a café similar to Ogada or Tea Oreum. It is a franchise café that sells traditional Korean snacks and beverages. There are stores in Daehangno, Ewha University, Gangnam, and Samsung Tower. Gaongill’s traditional bingsu is very popular and features red azuki beans, rice cakes, jujubes, chestnuts, and mung beans. Unique treats on their menu are the Sujeonggwa bingsu, the royal honey bingsu, and pea bingsu. The pea bingsu features peas boiled in sugar. It is quite popular as it is low in calories.
- Address (Daehangno branch): 153, Daehang-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
- Direction: Get off at Hyehwa Station (Seoul Subway Line 4) Exit 4, go straight for 150 meters towards Hyehwa rotating intersection.
- Hours: 10:00 – 23:00 (Open all year round)
- Menu: Patbingsu 8,000 won/ green tea bingsu 8,500 won/ strawberry bingsu 8,500 won/ Gaon bingsu 7,000 won
- Phone: +82-2-766-0442 (Korean)
Sammat Hootteok, a cozy and charming snack place
Sammat Hootteok is a snack place run by a young brother and sister duo. By opening this establishment, the owners bet everything on their hotteok, a variety of Korean fritters. Sammat, or three tastes, refers to the three varieties of hotteok they serve: the red azuki beans, cheese, and seed. Later, the owners developed an ice cream. The ice hotteok features cold ice cream stuffed inside a hotteok that’s just been deep-fried in oil. The taste is beyond descriptio and amazingly good, so much so that this snack was featured on a KBS broadcast. Also highly recommended is Sammat Hootteok’s tteok-bokki, an all-time favorite Korean snack food, and the Italy hotteok that is full of cheese.
- Address: 5, Wangsimni-ro 21-gil, Seongdong-gu, Seoul
- Direction: Get off at Wangsimni Station (Seoul Subway Line 2, 5 & Jungang Line & Bundang Line) Exit 11, go straight for 100 meters and turn left towards the alley where a pharmacy is located.
- Hours: 11:00 – 22:00 (Closed on Mondays)
- Website: www.facebook.com/sammat (Korean)
- Menu: Ice hotteok (ice cream) 1,700 won/ ice hotteok (pat) 1,000 won/ Italy hotteok (cheese) 1,500 won/ Cworld hotteok (seed) 1,000 won
- Phone: +82-2-2282-3393 (Korean)
Tasting Room, serving elegant ice cream
Tasting Room is a restaurant run by a married couple, one is an architect and one is a lighting designer. The restaurant sells popcorn salt ice cream, which is vanilla ice cream filled with popcorn served on a chilled dish and sprinkled with salt. Dip the ice cream in some salt to enhance its sweetness. But don’t use too much salt or it will ruin the ice cream’s flavor. This combination of popcorn and ice cream has become more common on the Korean street food scene and you will also find similar ice creams at CGV movie theaters.
- Address (COEX branch): Asem Tower, 517, Yeongdong-daero, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
- Direction: Get off at Samsung Station (Seoul Subway Line 2) Exit 5 and Tasting Room is located in COEX Mall
- Hours: 11:00 – 22:00 (Open all year round)
- Website: http://www.tastingroom.co.kr/ (Korean)
- Menu: Popcorn salt ice cream 13,800 won/ yuja bingsu 14,300 won/ baked oreo ice cream 13,200 won
- Phone: +82-2-551-3699 (Korean)
Shall We, a sweet tart heaven
Situated on Gangnam-daero, a busy commercial street in Seoul, Shall We is a restaurant that specializes in French tarts. Its glass showcase features a variety of tarts, with flavors like unique fruits, sweet pumpkin, grape, earl grey tea, and blueberry cheese. In the summer, the establishment sells three types of tart bingsu, with the most popular being the sweet and sour very berry bingsu. If you have a sweet tooth, try the milk tea tart. If you like coffee, try the tiramisu bingsu made with rich chocolate and cappuccino.
- Address: 13, Gangnam-daero 61-gil, Seocho-gu, Seoul
- Direction: Get off at Gangnam Station (Seoul Subway Line 2 & Sinbundang Line) Exit 10, turn left at the alley where Body Shop is located and keep walking. Shall We will be on the left side.
- Hours: 10:00 – 23:00 (Closed on Mondays)
- Menu: Tart bingsu are about 10,500 won each/ single tarts are about 6,000 won/ other dishes are available
- Phone: +82-2-537-8092 (Korean)
Bardot Bars, delicious and decadent ice cream bars
Bardot Bars is a decadent ice cream brand from California. The stores are designed as if selling luxury goods and the packaging is unique and lavish. The ice cream is coated with Belgium chocolate, while the inside comes in ten or so flavors, including walnut, cheese, and green tea. The flagship store in Cheongdam-dong is run side by side with the Klatch Coffee, a specialty coffee shop from the U.S. Bardot Bars was also featured several times in Korean dramas and Yoon Eun-hye, EXO, and 4minute also filmed here.
- Address: 8, Dosan-daero 57-gil, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
- Direction: Get off at Apgujeong Rodeo Station (Bundang Line) Exit 4, turn left at the alley where Burger King is located.
- Hours: 10:00 – 23:00 (Mon to Thurs), 10:00 – 01:00 (Fri), 12:00 – 01:00 (Sat), 12:00 – 23:00 (Sun) – Open all year round
- Menu: Ice cream bars: 4,800 - 5,800 won
- Website: www.facebook.com/bardotkorea (Korean)
- Phone: +82-2-540-5419 (Korean)
- Tip: The frozen ice cream bars will last 8 hours and free packing is available when buying 6 or more.