5 Old School Bingsoo Spots to Cool Down At
Every week we pick 5 spots to grab a specific food. We’re not trying to say they’re the best 5, because we’re not looking to start fights – but these are definitely top spots to try. Stay tuned each week to see if the food you’re craving is featured.
Summer’s winding down, and if you’re like us, the next few weeks are a race to get in as many bingsoos as possible before it gets too cold. While bingsoo has taken on a lot of delicious forms in the last few years, we gotta first pay our respects to the OG bingsoo: that of the pat [팥] variety. Pat bingsoo is about as traditional as a Korean dessert can get, and for a lot of people, sweet red beans and other traditional toppings like dduk [떡], injeolmi [인절미] and fruit over shaved ice may not be as exciting or indulgent as flavors like cheesecake, chocolate, you know. But despite being a dessert, traditional bingsoos hold all of the conscious balance that is integral to classic Korean cuisine as a whole. An old school bingsoo is sweet, but not overly sweet, with a variety of textures and flavors that contrast to create a harmonious way to beat the heat. If you feel like going back to the roots of Korean sweets, here’s five pat bingsoo spots you shouldn’t miss.
담장옆에 국화꽃 (담꽃) – 서래마을
Just call it DamKkot. This small chain specializes in traditional Korean desserts, so in addition to several varieties of sweet dduk and porridges, they’ve naturally become known for their classic bingsoos. Their topping combinations range from red bean chestnut, jeju tangerine, and pumpkin. These all come topped generously with traditional garnishes like yellow beans, dried dates, and pieces of dduk. The seasonal bingsoos (get ‘em while they last) are so traditional they’re even served in frosty old school metal bowls. This spot is genuinely a step back through time in dessert form.
연남살롱 – 연남동
Yeonnam salon is a cozy spot in the middle of a long, open street adjacent to a school, I think. While the location may seem a little random (that tends to be a trend for places in Yeonnamdong), one visit will make it clear that this is where every cool person in the area comes to get coffee and bingsoo. There’s often a wait, but once you’re inside, it’s hard not to feel lost in the homey, dimly lit interior. Small shelves are crammed with old manhwa [만화] books, and antique toys are scattered across shelves and tables. As for the bingsoo, flavors include pat with sweetened condensed milk, matcha, and assam milk tea. The ice is shaved super thin, so that the finely powdered flavors coat the outside like a colorful snowball, while sweetened condensed milk and tea immediately sink through when poured over. The bingsoos at Yeonnam Salon are on the smaller size, so splitting two between two people is usually the move.
소적두 – 삼청동
If you were trying to really get old school with a bingsoo, the best place to eat it would be a hanok [한옥]. If you were going to eat an old school bingsoo in a hanok, the best neighborhood to find such a place would be, yeah, Samchungdong. So juk doo is set up in an old fashioned Korean house, fitting of the old fashioned pat bingsoo they serve, topped with four pieces of injeolmi. Other flavors include yuja and green tea. So Juk Doo also has a location in Apgujeong Rodeo, where they serve the same old school desserts in the same old school silver bowls with gold spoons. The only difference is, of course, the Apgujeong spot isn’t in a hanok…so…up to you.
장꼬방 – 강남역
Jang Kko Bang is practically indistinguishable from any other contemporary-style samgyupsal restaurant or chicken jib around Gangnam, except their specialty is traditional dessert. Their pat is made in house, and has an amazingly complex flavor and dope texture because of the whole red beans in it. Their most standard pat bingsoo, which is deceptively simple looking, comes topped with raw chestnut for a sweet, traditional flavor and a little texture. Their homemade dduk is also amazing and makes a great companion to their bingsoo.
홍팥집 – 송파구
Hong Pat Jib’s name means red bean house, which, you know, makes a lot of sense. The spot is nestled in a fittingly traditional looking building, and the menu is simple and cheap; the only three varieties of bingsoo they sell are homemade pat (called gamasot [가마솥], the name of the metal cauldron in which it’s made), green tea, and milk. Whether its in the name or not, all bingsoos come topped with their house pat and a few pieces of dduk. Hong Pat Jib’s old school stuffed buns and sikhye [식혜] (fuckin sikhye!!) are also unreal. This is the spot for a traditional Korean dessert purist, hands down.
We hope this list gives you an arsenal to choose from when it’s time to cool off old school Korean style. If you know of a bomb pat bingsoo spot we missed, or have some thoughts about the places we listed here, let us know. Stay cool out there y’all. For another list like this, check out last week’s installment, where we looked at mul naengmyun, another cold favorite.
Photo credits: Author, @madebyzoo, @alsucream, @seh2_p, @_dewdew_3