The dessert I have savored most often, since having written the 2009 post Ujikintoki – a Fabulous Japanese Dessert, is shaved ice. I could count the number of times I had Baskin-Robbins Nutty Coconut Ice Cream and the number of times I had Cheesecake Factory’s White Chocolate Caramel Macadamia Nut Cheesecake – exactly twice – between 2009 and 2016. Just this winter I have already enjoyed bingsu at three different Korean shaved ice parlors.
Time – scarce in recent months due to a hectic work schedule – is what I need in order to find answers for the questions I asked myself every time I had shaved ice: In which Asian nation was this historical treat first developed? How was the ice shaved in ancient times? Was snow shoveled off the roof or front door ever used? What are the latest enhancements in modern-day shaved ice machinery? Who, or which Japanese personality, came up with the idea of flavoring the ice with matcha?
The shaved ice in bingsu seems much more powdery, fluffy than the ice in ujikintoki and snow ice, so fluffy that a gentle breeze could blow it out of the bowl. Red bean is one of the popular toppings, thus the dish is also known as patbingsu; in Korean pat means red bean paste. It is that scrumptious pairing of red beans and matcha, and refreshing texture of the shaved ice that enticed me to venture out, on a rare rainy day, to Koreantown for a bowl of matcha patbingsu, which I would be tempted to order again and again, but I ought to give injeolmi bingsu covered with roasted soybean powder a try next time.