Fad or Future

Staying cool: battling the heat with shaved ice noodles

Shiltarae bingsu are the latest frozen treat from Asia.

9 August 2018
asianchineseice creamfrozenjapanese
image credit: Tiravento

The temperature may have dropped a bit today, but Britain is experiencing one of the hottest summers in history. What better time to look at an icy-cool treat from the Far East?

We’ve previously talked about kakigori, the Japanese dessert that’s been tearing up the United States this year. Now, we’re introducing a Korean alternative: shiltarae bingsu.

Like many Asian countries, the Koreans have their own version of shaved ice. What makes this particular iteration unique is that it comes in noodle-like strands. Developed at a Seoul cafe called Tiravento, shiltarae bingsu is even featured on the South Korean government’s official tourism website as a local novelty.

The cafe has been creating its icy strands using a custom machine since last summer, with flavours including green tea, milk, coffee, chocolate and strawberry.

While most shaved iced desserts are eaten with a spoon, shiltarae bingsu is stable enough that customers can cut into it with a knife and fork. Served alongside is a scoop of ice cream, as well as traditional ingredients like adzuki beans and rice cakes.

While this is the latest addition to the Asian tradition of shaved ice, there are lots of other variations. And as Sparkie previously noted, there's really no good reason the frozen foods couldn't take hold over here – with a little bit of flavour tweaking, of course.


4 more shaved ice sweets from Asia

Bingsu: the generic term for all kinds of South Korean shaved ice treats, which have the texture of fine snow. The most traditional version, patbingsu, is flavoured with condensed milk and topped with a combination of adzuki beans (aka red beans), glutinous tteok (rice cake) and misutgaru (roasted rice and grain powder). Like all the shaved ice creations listed here, however, modern versions include all sorts of ingredient variation, from chocolate to jujube.

Kakigori: this Japanese fave shares a similar texture to bingsu but tends to be more about purity. Classically, it is only flavoured with fruit syrup, with modern versions showing up in some of the most fashionable new hangouts in New York and Los Angeles.

Baobing/xuehuabing: the granddaddy of them all, baobing originates in China – 7th century AD China, by some reckonings. It fell out of sight on the mainland, though, and most of the nation’s millennials were introduced to it via chains from Taiwan, where it is also called xuehuabing. This tends to come with thicker chunks of ice, providing more of a crunch – or a lingering melting cube for those who don’t like to bite down. Red beans and condensed milk are popular here again, but mango is often the favourite flavour.

Halo-halo: arguably the most colourful concoction, this Filipino delicacy normally comes with a bright purple dollop of ube (purple yam) ice cream – as well as condensed milk, leche flan (caramel custard), strips of plantain and macapuno (mutant coconut). It’s also not uncommon to find red beans and chickpeas somewhere amidst the madness.

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