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Sunday, August 16, 2009

A palate for patbingsu

Patbingsu is ubiquitous in Korea. This uber-sweet combination of shaved ice, red beans, milk, jellied fruit and syrup can be found everywhere from McDonald's and Lotteria to the neighborhood cafe.

Koreans love red beans -- it's common to find bean paste as filling in pastries and cakes -- and most of the time, the taste comes closer to chocolate than legumes. One of the best street food treats is bungeoppang, a winter snack best described as a fish-shaped waffle filled with bean paste. Yum.

After walking around in the sun in Insadong for a while, Sandy and I needed to cool down and when she suggested patbingsu, we quickly found a cafe serving it.

Lime Tree is an adorable cafe I've walked by probably a dozen times and never entered. If you exit Anguk Station at exit 2, it's right there. You can't miss it if you're walking to Insadong-gil, the main street in Insadong. Lime Tree has only a handful of tables but the extensive menu includes coffee, cake, sandwiches and waffles.

Truth be told, patbingsu is not one of my favorite snacks but shaved ice sounded like the perfect idea on a steamy day. It's very sweet and surprisingly heavy. I can still feel it sitting like lead in my stomach seven hours later.

That said, a few bites is an ideal pick-me-up when you're hot and tired. It was nice just to sit and chat with Sandy for a while -- we've hardly had the chance to catch up since she's been back in Korea -- and we're excitedly planning adventures in Australia and New Zealand for early 2010. Yay travel!

Wikipedia says that Red Mango and Pinkberry carry patbingsu year-round (not sure if they mean only Korean locations or worldwide) so if you see it in the menu, don't be afraid to try something new. ;)

Graffiti decorates the walls at Lime Tree