Bingsu, or Korean shaved ice, is the perfect treat in sweltering South Korean summer weather. Here’s where you can get it in Busan.
Bingsu is made from shaved ice, sweetened condensed milk and toppings of your choice – popular options are fruit, chocolate, ice cream and sweet rice cakes. The traditional version of this classic dessert is topped with sweet red beans and called patbingsu.
You can get bingsu all over Busan; eating bingsu together is a popular Korean date activity (it’s normally served in giant, two-person portions) and there are dessert cafés all over the city that make a version of the dish. Here are some of the best.
Bibibidang is a traditional-style Korean teahouse, located on Haeundae’s artsy Dalmaji Hill. It serves a number of traditional Korean desserts, including a delicious hobakbingsu, or sweet pumpkin shaved ice. The teahouse has a lovely, vintage-style interior and sweeping views out over the ocean. As well as bingsu, you can try a wide variety of Korean teas, all of which are served with dashik (traditional Korean confectionary designed to accompany tea).
No prizes for guessing what kind of bingsu is served here. Dala 100% Chocolate is a dessert café that focuses on all things rich and chocolatey, and their ‘Dinosaur Egg Bingsu’ is no exception – comprised of shaved ice and chocolate flakes, it’s topped with chocolate syrup and a generous scoop of ice cream (and small chocolate dinosaur) inside a massive chocolate dinosaur egg. It’s in the popular café area of Jeonpo and the bright pink exterior makes it easy to find.
Sulbing is an iconic South Korean dessert café chain that specialises in bingsu. It’s one of the best places to go if you want to choose from a wide range of flavours, including strawberry cheesecake, mango and traditional injeolmi. There are Sulbing cafés all over Busan, but the best-located is perhaps in Millak, on the eastern side of Gwangalli Beach – the café looks out over the beach and the famous Gwangan Bridge, and is just a few minutes’ walk from the lovely (and underrated) waterfront between Millak Hoe Center and Millak Waterside Park where young Koreans congregate to eat street food in the evening. There’s also a Sulbing on the main road at Haeundae.
Bosung Nokcha is located in Namcheon, within walking distance from Gwangalli Beach. Although it’s a little tucked away, it’s well worth the journey. The café’s two floors are surrounded by greenery, making it look wild and overgrown from the outside. Inside, wooden floors and furniture meld harmoniously with the trees and leaves. It serves traditional-style patbingsu at an unbeatable price – a one-person serving is 2,500 won (approx. US $2.22).
Gamcheon Culture Village’s twisting, colourful alleys are riddled with tiny cafés, most of which offer up their own spin on the Korean dessert. As they’re all small, similar and close together, just pick whichever one you think looks the prettiest and enjoy the view over bites of sweet, melting bingsu. Don’t forget to take a photo or two for Instagram.
If you’re looking for traditional, cheap bingsu in Haeundae, head to Yesnal Patbingsu, where a bowl will set you back a mere 3,000 won (approx. US $2.66). The small, no-frills shop is a little tucked away, so make sure you locate it on a map first.
Halmae means ‘grandmother’ in Korean and this shop sells simple, traditional (and cheap!) patbingsu, just the way a grandmother would make it. The name also makes it easy to spot – just look out for the smiling old lady on the sign. It’s a little way away from the main tourist drag, but close to Igidae Coastal Park. It’s best combined with a bracing walk along Igidae’s dramatic shoreline.