Bingsu is a traditional Korean dessert that has been taking Singapore by storm. At its heart is a large bowl of shaved ice, topped with any combination of fruit, ice cream, syrup, chocolate and nuts, often decorated to look like a small cute animal is peeping out of the top. The ice itself is usually not plain water but a sweetened, milky version which produces shavings like soft, sweet snowflakes. Tanjong Pagar, home to what is probably the greatest concentration of Korean bars, eating places and mini-marts in Singapore, recently saw the opening of 24 hour bingsu dessert café Bingki, which was impossible to resist.
Looking at the menu, cute ice cream bears in giant teacups aside, I was particularly struck by the idea of the janchi bingsu, which looked to be a dessert version of bibimbap – my favourite Korean meal. In the savoury version, a stone bowl of rice is topped with neatly arranged ‘spokes’ of meat, vegetables and spicy things, with a raw egg in the centre and red hot kochijan sauce on top. You stir all this together to mix the flavours, and tuck in.
The janchi bingsu (janchi means feast or festival in Korean) is a wooden bowl of shaved ice, with fruit and nuts laid out attractively on top in the same style. Here we had melon, mango, strawberries, grapes, blueberries and flaked almonds. There was whipped cream in the middle, topped with a melon ball to look just like the egg, and a small jug of strawberry syrup stood in for the chilli sauce.
It is as well to take a friend or two with you when you go to eat bingsu, as the portions can be enormous. With this one, we failed to finish the bowl despite bringing 2 healthy appetites and a free afternoon to the table. But I have to say that it was delicious, and, with all that fresh fruit, felt very healthy for a dessert café. The S$20 we paid for it, however, was perhaps a little steep, but it was good enough to go back for more some day soon.