Since the weather is warming up here in Korea, we thought this would be a great time to talk about the frozen desserts that Koreans eat to keep cool. Now obviously, Koreans enjoy most of the same ice creams, sorbets, gelato, and other frozen desserts that you do. But there are a few ice cream treats that are specific to Korea and have been beloved by natives for a long time. From patbingsoo to red bean ice bars to a certain soda-flavored ice cream, there are actually quite a few Korean ice cream desserts. Let’s take a look at them now!
Koreans love fish, and they love fish-shaped sweets! One of the most famous Korean desserts is bungeobbang, which is a sweet red bean pastry prepared with a waffle mold shaped like a fish. (It’s similar, if not identical, to the Japanese dessert called taiyaki.) Samanco is essentially next level bungeobbang. The familiar fish-shaped waffle is stuffed with vanilla ice cream and a thin layer of red bean paste. The result is a portable ice cream sandwich that’s satisfying without being too intensely sweet. And don’t worry, it’s not fish-flavored in the least!
Baskin Robbins is kind of a big deal in Korea, where Ben and Jerry’s is nonexistent and Haagen-Dazs is mostly limited to a few flavors sold in certain convenience stores. The chain’s most iconic flavor is Shooting Star, which is exclusive to Korea. We can’t exactly pin down what it’s supposed to taste like, unless “awesome” can be considered an official descriptive of taste. It’s said to be soda-flavored, which we can kind of see since it contains popping candy that fizzes in your mouth. It also features a strawberry jam swirl with fruit-flavored and vanilla ice creams.
The ubiquitous B-B-Big cannot be considered a trendy dessert by any means. There aren’t any B-B-Big-flavored soju cocktails or ice cream cakes. You won’t find any K-pop stars endorsing B-B-Big. Still, it would be sacrilege to leave this dessert off our list, since it’s the very definition of a classic. It’s a red bean ice bar which been around since the 1970s, which by South Korean standards is almost about as old as you can get. Whether or not people eat it today, they definitely grew up eating it. It’s got a chalky, milky, pleasantly sweet red bean flavor, with added texture from whole red beans. If you cringe at the sight of patbingsoo loaded with neon-colored syrup, candy bars, and canned tropical fruits, B-B-Big is here for you.
Next to B-B-Big, Melona is undoubtedly one of Korea’s most classic ice pops. Launched in 1992, this creamsicle dessert is famous for its pale green color and milky sweet melon taste. For those of you who prefer different flavors, Melona is now also sold in strawberry, mango, banana, and plain milk. Or if you need more melon flavor, you can bring it up a thousand notches with Melona bingsoo. That’s melon balls, melon ice cream, and Melona bars all stuffed into a hollowed-out melon gourd. It’s Melona to the max!
AKA Koreans Really Love Fish-Shaped Desserts, Part II.
Jaws’ realistic gray-purple outer shell and pink interior are perhaps this popsicle’s biggest selling point. Along with the tapered end and fangs, the color combo has allowed generations of children (since 1983) to pretend that they’re biting into Hollywood’s scariest flesh-eating fish. The flavor is decidedly less frightening: This is a standard fruit-flavored popsicle which can be enjoyed by children and adults of all ages.
You can’t get much more classic than a dessert that’s been around for centuries. The existence of patbingsoo predates modern refrigeration: During the Joseon dynasty, this red bean paste dessert was served during the cold weather months when ice was freely available. Functionally, this dessert must contain red beans in order to be called “patbingsoo,” but Koreans these days love to combine the familiar shaved ice base with various toppings such as soft rice cakes, ice cream, fruit, condensed milk, chocolate syrup, and basically anything that’s sweet and delicious. So you can find many types of bingsoo, like mango, melon, or milk tea (as shown below)!
To be honest, we might be jumping the gun when we call this a classic – this combo, originally developed by the Korean soft serve chain Softree, has only existed for a couple years. But thanks to the rapid expansion of Softree (and Softree’s countless imitators) throughout Asia, we’ve decided that it’s worthy of inclusion. The dessert in question is soft serve ice cream with a side of honeycomb. The ice cream tastes more strongly of milk than your typical soft serve, and the honeycomb (which may be real honeycomb or may even just be plastic) is filled with honey that oozes all over the ice cream. The result is a frosty, milky, honey-flavored cup (or cone) of goodness.
That’s all for now. Which ice cream treats have you tried, or do you want to try?
Make sure you’re keeping cool in this summer heat… we’ll be back soon with more icy goodness!