The distinctive feature of bingsu, Korea's most popular summer dessert, is its colorful toppings like (clockwise from top) red beans, mango, grapefruit and black sugar. (Cafe Droptop)

Similar to the shaved ice desserts kakigori of Japan, snowball of North America and raspado of South America, bingsu is the most popular summer dessert in Korea.

Bingsu is distinct from similar desserts abroad thanks to its simple syrup on top as well as toppings spanning various tastes and colors. Depending on market trends, the selection of bingsu toppings such as tteok (rice cake), fruits or nuts changes every summer.


The varieties of bingsu change every year depending on market demand and trends. (Ediya Coffee, Café Droptop, Sulbing, Gongcha Korea)

The latest flavor trend in bingsu this summer is brown sugar. The flavor brown sugar milk tea features ice milk tea with brown sugar syrup on top of the shaved ice.

A dessert industry source said, "Brown or muscovado sugar is unrefined cane sugar, and this healthy sweetness helped the flavor become a trend in Taiwan," adding, "Brown sugar, which contains nutrients such as calcium, is this year's dessert trend."

Demand for fresh ingredients has kept fruit-flavored bingsu popular. Many cafes report mango, with a chewy texture, as the top choice of bingsu lovers. Fruit-flavored versions served with toppings like half a melon or pineapple and piled high with shaved milk are also hits every year.

Other takes on bingsu that use unique looks have grown popular through social networking services like Instagram. The "galaxy" bingsu looks like a planet with blue and red caramel syrup mixed on top of a chocolate dome. The island-resembling "Maldives" bingsu sports yellow soybean powder as sand and meringue cookies as sea shells.