Last Updated on August 8, 2017 by Christine Kaaloa
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
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:
- Kakigori in Japan
- Baobing in China or Tsu-bin in Taiwan
- Halo-halo a similar dessert from the Phillipines
- Ais kacang – a similar dessert from Malaysia and Singapore
- Cendol – a similar dessert from Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore