Berry-infused shaved ice dessert a sweet treat in sweltering heat

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Berry-infused shaved ice dessert a sweet treat in sweltering heat


Bokbunja bingsu

Bingsu, a shaved ice dessert, is my favorite sweet summertime treat.

After finishing a 1,000-word article about a complex political subject just before the late night deadline in a newsroom without air conditioning, most journalists would opt for an ice-cold glass of draft beer.

But I crave a good bingsu.

The traditional treat features a bowl of shaved ice topped with sweet red beans, but I have seen creative variations made with coffee, fruit, green tea and other ingredients.


On a recent weekday, I headed to the Hongdae neighborhood in northwest Seoul for a good bowl of bingsu. At the cafe of the aA Design Museum, my companions and I discovered bokbunja bingsu (7,000 won, $5.65), a rare choice of topping for the shaved ice dessert.

Bokbunja is a type of black raspberry in Korea that is often used to make fruit wine. The berries are known to have aphrodisiac qualities.

A glass filled with shaved ice and bokbunja extract, topped with vanilla ice cream and decorated with mint leaves and a berry, arrived at our table. While most bingsu bowls at other cafes are big enough to feed two or more, this serving is better geared for just one person.

The delicious, intense flavor of the sweet berries and the ice went well with the soft, milky taste of the ice cream. It was a simple - yet refreshing and creative - harmony. We also ordered homemade vanilla ice cream and a glass of yuja, or citron, iced tea (5,500 won), just what the doctor ordered on such a hot day.

The vanilla ice cream was nothing extraordinary. But the dish, complete with thin chocolate biscuits and berries on top of the small bowl, was a delight to look at.

Yuja iced tea, which is sweetened with citron peels, is a drink often favored in the winter time, when it’s served hot.

But the cold version is a delight as well. I absolutely savored the bittersweet taste of the citron peels, using my spoon to scoop up the last piece.

The cafe has a balcony and an extremely high ceiling, making it a pleasant place on a hot summer night. It’s also famous for its interior design, as it’s filled with vintage furniture from Europe. Even the hardwood floorings, window frames and lighting were carefully selected. While admiring both the desserts and the design, the time flew by.

aA Design Museum’s cafe

Location: 408-11 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul

Hours: noon to midnight

Telephone: (02) 3143-7312

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