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Tis the Season of Patbingsu 팥빙수 | Street Eats Korea


Patbingsu Desert 팥빙수 | Street Eats Korea

On the topic of food…

It was my second day back in Korea for the summer, I passed a neighborhood Paris Baguette and da-ding!  I realized I was back in time to celebrate my favorite Korean dessert. Yes, it’s patbingsu (밭빈수) season! Yowza!

Patbingsu (팥빙수)  is a popular shaved ice dessert in South Korea sold during the sweltering months of May-September. In short, it’s red azuki beans and shaved ice, served with various sides of fruit, mochi balls and sometimes, corn flakes. But there are various modifications of this– from green tea ice cream, condensed sweetened milk, mochiko powder and fruits which tend to revolve around pineapple, banana, watermelon, mandarin oranges and grapes (what I’ve experienced so far). It’s all served up with  royal twist!

Photo above: patbingsu at Lotteria;
below: another version of patbingsu from a different Paris Baguette location;
third photo: variations of patbingsu from Tous les Jours cafe

patbingsu from paris baguette

patbingsu from paris baguette

IMG_8062

Patbingsu

 

 

I’m so diehard about these things that I can eat them for breakfast lunch and dinner; for me, it can take the place of a meal and I love that I don’t have to worry about busting out of my girlish figure! It’s a fairly healthy diet dessert as well.

On a recent trip to Malaysia, I even found the Malay version of it!

Cendol is  very popular dessert in Malaysia!


Many cafes carry them:  Lotteria sells them for 3500₩ , Paris Baguette for anywhere from  5,000-7,000 ₩ but these dishes can go as high as 10,000 ₩ and be found at many cafes around the country.

Pat (바트): Dessert to vegetarian safe food

I’ve loved eating azuki beans (aka red beans) since childhood. In Hawaii, they are filling in mochi (glutinous rice cake), manapua (steamed bread), manju, daifuku (large mochi with filling in the middle) and various other rice cake and baked desserts. In countries like Korea, Japan and China, however, azuki beans as indigenous as soybeans and rice! In fact, Japan and China are said to be the biggest cultivators of it.

As a vegetarian with limited Korean, this one word, Pat (바트), is my giant exhale when it comes to ordering side snacks and baked goods.   I generally can’t go wrong when I order something it’s in and the health and dietary benefits of it is unbelievable! Per calorie, it’s got more good nutrients loaded into it:

Adzuki beans are a good source of magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc copper, manganese and B vitamins. As a high-potassium, low-sodium food they can help reduce blood pressure and act as a natural diuretic. When combined with grains, beans supply high quality protein, which provides a healthy alternative to meat or other animal protein.
— Nutritionist Lucy Kelly Nutritional Therapist, Southampton, England (posted in Knowingfood.com)

The origin of Patbingsu (팥빙수)?

It’s hard to say which country it originated from. Much like fortune cookies having roots from Japan and spaghetti originally being invented by either the Japanese or Chinese, it’s hard to know who invented patbingsu as many countries have long used it’s ingredients.

Shaved ice for instance, is common not only in Asia but can be found in Southeast Asia and Hawaii too and recently, I discovered the traditional way of making shaved ice is still practiced… in Cambodia!

The Cambodian way of making shaved ice (unfortunately, this is a bad shot).
Man takes a chunk of ice and pushes it against a wooden box with a blade in the middle & voila! Shaved ice.

Other main components of patbingsu are:

  • Rice cake or glutinous rice cake is a prominent snack in Japan, Hawaii, South Korea, Taiwan (where it is called 麻糬, Hokkien môa-chî or Mandarin máshu), Cambodia, Thailand, and Indonesia.
  • Azuki beans or red beans are azuki in Japanese, hongdou or chidou in Chinese, pat in Korean and đậu đỏ in Vietnamese . In  parts of India, they are called Red Chori and ravaa’n.

With histories outlasting Korea, it’s hard to believe Japan and China aren’t the clear initiators of patbingsu. However, being the great innovator Korea is, it’s possible they may have come up with the idea as well. I guess we’ll never really know  and it doesn’t really matter. Wherever it comes from, it sits in my stomach just right!

Here are other guises of patbingsu under different country names:

18 Comments

  1. It’s hard to say which country it originated from. Much like fortune cookies having roots from Japan and spaghetti originally being invented by either the Japanese or Chinese, it’s hard to know who invented patbingsu as many countries have long used it’s ingredients.

    Spaghetti is Italian, but noodles were introduced to Italy by China. Fortune cookies are actually a Chinese American invention.

    With histories outlasting Korea, it’s hard to believe Japan and China aren’t the clear initiators of patbingsu. However, being the great innovator Korea is, it’s possible they may have come up with the idea as well.

    History is not something one can speculate on without evidence. It’s not something that one should take lightly as you are talking about the cultural heritage of a people and it deserves the respect due. I have looked for evidence of the origin of red beans with shaved ice. I have not found any yet, but I have found an article on the origins of patbingsu.

    “Records show that during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1897), Seobingo ― the government office in charge of the royal ice box ― would share ice with fellow officials, who would enjoy it finely crushed and mixed with fruit for a granita-like dessert.”

    http://www.koreaherald.com/lifestyle/Detail.jsp?newsMLId=20100812000473

    http://www.seouleats.com/2011/05/origin-of-patbingsu.html

    • @tasting Korea: Good link to the Korean Herald page, thanks! I like their pictures and variations of patbingsu to try!

      FYI: fortune cookies have been “reinvented” by Chinese Americans (I believe in San Francisco?) but the concept originates from Japan. I know a NY Times author who published a book, The Fortune Cookie Chronicles. She went through years of research to traveling to uncover historical facts about the origin of that and other Chinese dishes (and the migration or evolution of them; that’s also where I also got the spaghetti fact). It’s even got some funny facts on the people who’ve written the Chinese proverbs in the fortune cookies. I’m not a food historian, so it was fascinating and insightful and made me think how we build long-standing cultural myths around our foods…


      History is not something one can speculate on without evidence.

      I agree with history being “speculative”. I’m skeptical and try to stay neutral; though, my logic has a bias swaying towards the two cultures, I know more about as always having had far-reaching global impact. It’s a fathomable hypothesis, as their people and cultures are known to have migrated around the world; whereas, Korean culture is only now developing its travel wings and finding its place in the global stream. Most of the world is un-knowledgeable about Korean history & culture and there’s not much support in English translation to help it.

      While The Korean Herald claimed a history of patbingsu from one sentence (not a paragraph or more, with no further reference or explanation); that answer was not a substantial for me. Seoul Eats quoted from the same The Korean Herald piece, so it seems we have one sentence of “fact” to stake a claim for Koreans and ‘a shaved ice & red bean dessert’. Then I question the source the “fact” came from. The Korean Herald is 1) media, 2) Korean media which is biased to Korean culture, and 3) grabs its information from the web and not always credible “researched” resources. I’m not saying I lack credibility… but my writings are based firstly, on personal experience. They once took an article of mine and twisted it to fit their supporting argument.

      Every country deserves respect, and then sometimes, a culture has to prove it a bit more in order for it to be placed on the global map. I have no hash with Korea; I like it. But I write things the way I see it, feel it, experience it and it’s still proving itself to me.

      In the end, this article is not trying to be a research or thesis paper. Its a blog that’s it’s meant for light travel reading and promotes something in Korean culture, I feel foreigners should try.

  2. Laura in Cancun says:

    Shaved ice and red beans? I would never have guessed… looks pretty delicious, though!

  3. Mack Reynolds says:

    Nice! This actually reminds me of a Filipino dessert known as Halo Halo. My mom used to make it for us a lot when we were kids. It’s a cool drink concoction with ice, a variety of gelatinous balls, and other sweet dried and canned fruits. It’s less ice cream, more milk-shaky. I miss them.

  4. Andrea says:

    This looks so delicious and refreshing! I love anything with red beans or green tea flavouring and fruit – yum!

  5. Sarah says:

    Oh my word, big fan of the patbingsu!

    With some stale corn flakes on top GET IN MY STOMACH RIGHT NOW.

    Thanks for the history lesson, as well! I’ll definitely be throwing down this information as I’m shoveling spoonfuls of shaved ice into my mouth!

  6. @izabelll: Good note! Even though patbingsu is “seasonal” occasionally you can still find small cafes and stuff which sell it. Red Mango (Seoul & Dagu) is one I also found still selling it in winter. I kinda crave this stuff year round- hot or cold.

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