Summer Postcards 2011

Bulging with Bingsu

SEOUL, South Korea—My stomach growls in protest as I gulp down another spoonful of shaved ice and sweetened red bean puree.

I pinch my stomach with one hand and quickly jot down some notes with the other: “The shaved ice, made with frozen milk, melted like snow right as it touched the tip of my tongue. The chunky red bean puree wasn’t overly sweet, while the slices of fresh kiwis and crunchy candied walnuts added texture to the otherwise watery bingsu.

After gathering enough information, I head out the door. Despite my bulging stomach, my footsteps do not lead me home, but to yet another café for yet another bowl of shaved ice.

As a food aficionado, I had often dreamed of being a food critic for a major newspaper. My dream became a reality when I interned as a reporter for Chosun Ilbo, the largest daily newspaper in South Korea. As a pitch, I suggested writing an article on where to find the best of Korea’s favorite summer dessert, patbingsu (shaved ice with red bean puree, rice cake, fruits, and other toppings) in Seoul. The editor welcomed the idea, and so began my bingsu adventure.

Since I had a limited time to visit as many bingsu cafes as possible, I would skip lunch and dinner to leave enough room in my stomach for two to three bowls of bingsu every day. At first I enjoyed the sweet and savory red bean puree with the frosty taste of shaved ice that immediately cooled my heated body in the humid Korean heat. However, after about four bowls, I had all but overdosed, and my stomach longed for something warm.


Five days, fifteen bingsu, and ten extra pounds later, I am finally finished reporting. Despite the thrill of being a food critic, I have realized that food tastes best when paid for with your own money and shared with your family and friends, not when dissected in detail and recorded in pen. Though I don’t have the courage to consume another shaved ice this season, I will leave Korea with a confident answer to an important question—that is, should anyone ever ask me where to find Seoul’s best bingsu cafe.

Jane Seo ’14 is a news writer and Crimson photographer in Pforzheimer House.