While the Korean sun gets unbearably hot in the summertime, it allows people to enjoy refreshing desserts that are different from the desserts you see in America. Traditional bingsu (빙수) is a lightly sweetened dessert often shared among friends and enjoyed by all. More recently, scrolling through Korean social media platforms will often bring you to videos featuring Greek Momo and watermelon punch. All three desserts are equally as refreshing for the last of this summer heat, and they can be enjoyed within the comfort of your home using the recipes below.
The first dessert is a popular summer treat that originates from Korea’s Joseon Era and was popularized after the Korean War. Korean shaved ice, also known as patbingsu (팥빙수) or bingsu (빙수), is a simple dessert enjoyed in a variety of flavors. The most traditional version will usually consist of seasonal fruits, mini rice cakes and red bean paste over shaved ice. For comparison, it is most similar to a snow cone, but tastier and without the artificial flavoring.
Over the years, it has been reinvented with new toppings such as condensed milk and flavors such as matcha and strawberry. My favorite bingsu flavor is injeolmi (인절미), which is topped with Korean roasted soybean powder. Nowadays, most Korean cafes serve bingsu with frozen milk and condensed milk instead of shaved ice to prevent it from watering down.
Although bingsu is most often enjoyed in Korean cafes, it is also easy to recreate at home. All you need is a bowl and your ingredients. It is best to use an ice shaver, but a bowl and a fork to scrape the ice can do the trick. For the ingredients prepare milk, condensed milk, fruits of your choice and ice cream.
Tina, a Korean chef from doobydobap, provides a simple recipe for homemade bingsu. In her recipe, she makes a specific flavor, mango bingsu, but the toppings are customizable to your own preferences and tastes.
The second dessert is relatively new, but it is trending in Korea right now because it is both aesthetically pleasing and delicious. The recipe for Greek Momo started out in cafes and was sold as a breakfast item, but due to its popularity and feasibility, more and more Koreans are creating this recipe at home.
This dessert utilizes a unique combination of peach and Greek yogurt. First you will need to remove the peach pit by cutting an incision at the top of the peach, but be careful to keep the rest of the peach intact because you will need to fill it with Greek yogurt. The “Greek” portion of the name comes from Greek yogurt, and “Momo” means peach in Japanese. Besides the peach and Greek yogurt, you also need granola for the base and honey for the topping — you can also add mint as garnish if you would like.
Emily from Carving a Journey shows how to create this simple dessert, and she also provides tips to perfect it, such as peeling the peach after filling it with yogurt. This will help keep the structure of the peach after you remove the pit. It is also important to freeze the dessert for an hour or two to harden the yogurt — this will create the consistency of a sorbet.
The final dessert, watermelon punch, is another trending dessert in Korea — although it has been a longtime staple in many homes. Watermelon punch is the perfect refreshing dessert or snack to make during the summer.
Like the bingsu, watermelon punch is very customizable with your choice of toppings. To make the punch, scoop out your watermelon with a spoon and place it in a separate bowl. Next, top it with fruits of your choice, such as pineapples, berries and mango. You can also top it with your favorite gummy candies, such as sour gummy worms and gummy bears. Finally, just fill the bowl with Sprite or Milkis, a Korean carbonated drink. For fun, you can replace the bowl with the actual hollowed-out watermelon.
This dessert is trending in Korea thanks to reinventions on TikTok and YouTube. Instead of pouring the carbonated drink directly in, Koreans center the bottle of soda in the bowl and drop Mentos in it to create a carbonated volcanic eruption. This makes it more fun to create, especially with young children.
Out of the three desserts, my favorite would definitely have to be bingsu, simply because it brings me back to my childhood when my grandma would make it for me and my cousins. To us, eating it would mark the beginning of summer and the sweltering hot days to come. However, all three are delicious and refreshing, and they are also simple to create by yourself or with friends.