The two PhDs were recently on tour in South Korea (okay, one of us went to a conference and the other one offered to carry luggage) and we took the opportunity to eat our way through Seoul and then Busan.
At this time of year, it’s pretty warm in South Korea. One of the things that everyone indulges in the heat is patbingsu, which is a shaved ice dessert. They are available nearly everywhere, in a variety of forms with different toppings. After a couple of hours of walking around a really cute neighborhood called Bukchon, full of little boutiques filled with artisanal jewelry and pottery, we stopped at a cafe recommended by our Time Out Seoul book– Cafe Margot. They recommended the raspberry shaved ice, and it wasn’t on the menu, so I asked the kind woman who worked there and she knew exactly what to bring me. I did not know what to expect.
This was no joke. On top of the shaved ice was a delicious combination of sweet red beans, mixed berries, a raspberry sauce, and condensed milk. Two spoons– yes. This was a mountain of shaved ice for two. It was seriously one of the most delicious, refreshing treats I could have asked for. It was so hot and we were so exhausted from wandering around that it was the perfect mid-day treat. The condensed milk added a tiny bit of creaminess to the shaved ice that was an unexpected and delicious component.
While we were shopping for souvenirs, Jess was also interested in a little bready treat filled with red bean paste. A good friend of mine from grad school, who lives in Seoul and served as our intrepid guide and generous host, told us that it was called “poop bread” because of the spiral shape it took– it looked, well, like a turd. It didn’t really, but Jess was game to try it anyway.
One of my favorite Japanese desserts is mochi. I have loved fresh mochi since I was a kid– a glutinous rice cake filled with red bean paste (or more recently, ice cream) but I heard that in Korea you can get rice cakes of different flavors, so I was immediately on the hunt for these little mounds of deliciousness.
Clockwise from top: sesame seed, green tea, cinnamon, yellow deliciousness, black sesame. Our favorites were cinnamon, sesame, and yellow deliciousness. (Sorry, we have no idea what the yellow one was, but it was sweet and yummy.)
As you can see, on the inside, they are gooey, sweet, and sticky, and filled with… yes, red bean. Are you sensing a trend here? Asians love red bean as a dessert. I have to admit, I’m not actually a huge fan of red bean because I am not a huge fans of the pasty, heavy texture of beans. But I will make an exception in some cases (like mochi, or a mountain of shaved ice).
All in all, this was a delicious excursion into sweets from Korea. I clearly need another vacation there so I can continue to sample their desserts!