A uniquely Asian treat for a hot day, shaved ice with toppings is natural and refreshing. Recently, modern techniques and ingredients have developed this invigorating street snack into a truly gourmet bonne bouche, from simple to simply amazing!
Patbingsu is a mound of flavored, crushed ice topped by a mantle of\ sweet red beans, drizzled with syrup and milk, and brimming with fresh fruit like mango and pineapple, then decorated with various sweets and nuts. Chewy, crunchy, sweet and creamy – it’s the perfect snack for a hot summer’s day. Uniquely Asian and very popular, patbingsu is also known as kakigori in Japan, baobing in China, tsu hua bing in Taiwan, ais kacang in Malaysia and Singapore, halo halo in the Philippines, and just “shave ice” in pidgin Hawaii. Patbingsu is the Korean loan word for this shaved ice treat.
But now, patbingsu is going mainstream in Cambodia. Versions range from traditional all-natural treats on the corner to an elevated cuisine form of this tasty, Asian dessert. The variety of toppings are mindboggling, from exotic tropical fruits like longan berries or dragon fruit to chunks of ttok (sticky glutinous rice) to Gummibear-like jellies, colored marshmallows and even Oreo cookies. Served in an ornate glass bowl, after a few minutes, colors and flavors run down the bowl, creating an icy, slurry mélange of flavors at the bottom. One bite into a chewy, oddly-sweet morsel of fruit and you’re hooked!
Be.K Dessert & Coffee in BKK1 (with two outlets on St. 306 and St. 63) serves you in fine style with an elevated form of this super cool treat. Genuine Häagen-Dazs ice cream
crowns their green tea-flavored snow puffs, festooned with strawberries and cantaloupe. Glazed with a coulislike fruit sauce and dusted with fine, confectioners sugar, you really can’t find a finer, more refreshing treat for a hot summer’s day. Well worth the $5-$7 indulgence.
Just to be cool, Be.K has 4 snow makers from Korea that super cool water spray droplets into delicately flavored snow. Snowball flavors include milk, coconut, chocolate, or green tea. Their high tech snow makers are constantly churning out delectable snow clouds that melt in your mouth yet satisfy your sweet tooth. Modern flavors include yoghurt, green tea, chocolate, and ice cream. And now Nutella, Oreo, and Milo have made the list. Some add nuts like almond slices, walnuts, and cashews for a more robust bonne bouche.
Patbingsu is being served in Cambodia in many forms. Often near markets or schools, the corner sweets shop has a huge offering of ingredients for this traditional, almost-healthy snack, perhaps originally from the Chinese. Toppings include exotic fruits like durian, longan, taro or ripe avocado with various sweets and jellies, and even an egg on top! For robustness, add red or green beans, black caramelized rice, sticky rice, or coconut-marinated bananas. For sweetness, pour on coconut cream, palm sugar syrup, or fruit-flavored sweeteners. These traditional snacks are refreshingly all-natural and cheap, at just $0.50 – $1.50 for a small bowl loaded with toppings. And the sugar can be adjusted. Just say, “Ot jong p’aim,” and they will reduce the sweetness for you. The favorite for locals is durian bingsu on a bed of sticky rice, with milk on ice. When asked why, the manager of Break Time Café and Dessert said, “People like this special flavor, and most places don’t serve durian. So they come here.” The range of bingsus go for $4.50 to $7. Break Time is located on St. 163, just north of Mao Tse Tung Boulevard.
Many and Varied
The ice can be as simple as ice chips hand-ground from a large block of ice, to an electric ice grinder, to a modern snow maker developed to infuse flavor in these light-as-air chilled snow puffs.
The syrups vary from brightly colored, sugary-sweet concoctions to high-class mixers normally reserved for cocktails. Not that this exists yet, but if topped with a bit of l’eau de vie de framboise, who knows? That said, Blue Pumpkin have a grown up cocktail ice cream dessert on their menu if that’s what floats your boat. And over in Siem Reap, Long’s Bar has a range of soda cocktails with ice cream too. Sticking with the main theme; the sweetened red beans are added for more body and taste, adding the “pat” to patbingsu. These same red beans are stuffed inside scrumptious daifuku (or ttok), the bean-filled sticky rice dumpling dessert offered during holidays, especially in East Asia. Yummy!
Healthy Refreshing Snack
Most patbingsu desserts, fortunately, are often gluten-free delights. Just make sure to get the simple versions, without the biscuits, bread or any powders. Too often, one can be tempted with a very rich and heavy ice cream dessert full of fats and processed sugars. Not so with patbingsu, a customizable frozen treat with all-natural flavors or Oreos as you wish!
Try It Any Style
With patbingsu, you have a light, stimulating frozen dessert that’s naturally satisfying. Traditionally, it’s chock full of sweet and nutritious ingredients, minus the fat and gluten. And it’s
vastly improved from street to gourmet! Patbingsu has come a long way, much like Phnom Penh. Enliven yourself at the high end with this ice cold confectionary, and the snowy, milk-flavored puffs will melt away heat and exhaustion. Just choose your favorite flavors and enjoy!