This may seem unlikely given the fact that I am — uh — an adult, but patbingsu is my favorite food. Yes, a shaved ice dessert is my No. 1 thing to eat. It’s delicious, it’s fun and it makes me happy. When I lived in Seoul, I would trek to Techno Mart, a huge, gadget-selling mall, just to eat patbingsu. Why Techno Mart? Well, it boasted a pretty impressive food court that had several patbingsu vendors. And the patbingsu that these vendors sold was enormous. Seriously, this was patbingsu as big as your head, yet very reasonably priced. I recall it cost somewhere around 7,000 won, which was about $6 at the time.
Techno Mart still exists, but was completely renovated years ago. I’ve visited since and — as far as I can tell — it no longer houses these cheap patbingsu vendors. Sad. Fortunately, I now know how to make patbingsu myself.
This recipe also marks the end of my Korean Food Project, which was a personal challenge/commitment to cook one Korean dish per week for a year. (I kicked the project off in January and am finishing it now, in December.) Since patbingsu is my favorite food, I thought it a fitting close for my project. You can see all the dishes I cooked over the year on this page.
Patbingsu (Red Bean Shaved Ice) — 팥빙수
- 6 c. shaved ice
- 2 c. red bean paste*
- 8 Tbsp. sweetened condensed milk
- 4 tsp. cooked rice powder (misugaru)**
NOTE: This recipe is for a relatively simple and classic patbingsu. You can add many more ingredients if you like. Common patbingsu toppings include diced kiwi and strawberries; sweet rice cakes (tteok); green tea ice cream; and sugary cereal, such as Cap’n Crunch.
*You can buy red bean paste ready-made, in a can, at Asian grocery stores. I chose to cook mine from scratch using this recipe from the Korean food blog Aeri’s Kitchen. (See photos above for a picture of my homemade red bean paste.) If you make your red bean topping yourself, you need to do it well ahead of time, so it has time to cool off. Otherwise, it will melt the patbingsu’s shaved ice.
**Misugaru is often called ten-grain powder. Its ingredients vary, but typically include barley, black beans, corn, rice, sesame seeds and soybeans. Since misugaru contains gluten, I didn’t use it in my patbingsu, but it is surprisingly tasty and Koreans regard it as a health food. You can buy it at Korean food stores or on Amazon.com for $13.50 for a large bag.
As a gluten-free alternative to misugaru, I used a ready-made, powdered mix of black beans, walnuts and Job’s Tears tea in my patbingsu. (See photo above. Job’s Tears is a type of plant that produces a barley-like grain that, unlike barley, is gluten free.) You can buy similar Korean teas — such as this one made with black rice powder, black soybean powder and soybean powder or this one made with walnuts, almonds and Job’s Tears tea — on Amazon.com for $18 for a large bag or $10 for 15 small packets, respectively.
- Place 1½ c. of the shaved ice into each of the four bowls, shaping it into a mound.
- Add ½ c. of the red bean, 2 Tbsp. of the sweetened condensed milk and 1 tsp. of the rice powder on top of the shaved ice.
- Serve immediately.