The Philippines has been invaded by the K-Pop Sensation, and somehow this also translates into the food! Cafe Seol Hwa, a famous Korean Dessert Cafe, has been making waves with its famous Bing Soo, and I just had to see what all that was about.
Cafe Seol Hwa opened in Alabang’s Commerce Center, right next to Westgate and smack dab in the middle of Filinvest’s beautiful landscaping. I dropped by Sunday after lunch, and the place was busy but not overfilled just yet.
The menu was pretty expansive, I was expecting to see just Bing Soo this Bing Soo that, but there were lots of other things to order.
For today’s visit we got two regular orders of Bing Soo. A Bing Soo is like a Korean Halo Halo. However, it’s ice is flavored, much like Japan’s flavored ice Kakigoris, and it’s filled with less variety than the typical Halo Halo. We got the Nokcha (Green Tea Macha) Bing Soo and the Mango Cheese Bing Soo. For fun, I also ordered a Yeobgi Dduk Bok Gi. A Dduk Bok Gi is something like a Korean Rice Cake bowl, but I’ll get to that later.
Anway, after just a few minutes my Mango Cheese Bing Soo arrived. It came sooner because I figure it was easier to make.
The photo doesn’t do it justice, but this bowl of icy goodness looked so appetizing I almost forgot to take pictures. There’s a metallic bowl which honestly ruins the presentation a bit, but the rest of it looks great. Inside the bowl is a swath of finely-shaved milk ice. It’s flavored ice basically made of frozen milk, then put through the shaving machine to get the ice flakes finely ground. This is then garnished with fresh, ripe slices of mango, cheesecake cubes and almond slivers, then topped with vanilla ice cream with some mango syrup slathered over it.
It’s delicious. The mango in particular was sweet, without a hint of sourness, which I found very refreshing, because many dessert joints absolutely suck at this and serve you sour mangoes. I’m happy to announce that Seol Hwa knows its stuff and only chooses the finest mangoes to serve its customers.
The ice wasn’t that great, but the cheesecake bits and the ice cream more than made up for it. And as mentioned, the mangoes were divine. If you are looking for a mango dessert, this is probably the best mango dessert you can get in Alabang, far superior to the mango flavors you could get at Pinkberry or anywhere else, simply because the mangoes were just right. Sweet, delicious, not a hint of sourness. Kudos Seol Hwa.
The size of the serving is quite interesting. It’s actually too big in my opionion for the average eater, so if you’re on a date with a special someone and have already eaten and just want dessert, and neither of you are big eaters, just one regular-sized Bing Soo to share should be enough for both of you.
If you are just eating this, and nothing else, then one regular Bing Soo should be good for one person. I have not yet tried the large-sized Bing Soo, but I will get back to you guys on that. I imagine it would be a feast though.
The Nokcha Bing Soo soon arrived, this took longer as the clerk told us it would take about 20 minutes to arrive. It actually came in about 10 minutes, so thank goodness for under-promising and over-delivering.
The real star of this Bing Soo is the flavored ice, which is macha green tea-flavored. As a huge fan of green tea, this made me salivate. It has the same almond flakes, but atop the ice is some powder which I am not sure of, but it has a wheat-like, nutty taste. On top of that is the azuki beans (sweet red bean) which I just absolutely adore, and which go perfectly with macha. On top are some cubes of what appear to be mochi.
It’s a great tasting Bing Soo! The green tea doesn’t have the typical macha taste; strangely it has a more earthen, almost nutty flavor to it than I am used to. It also wasn’t sweet at all, which is great because then it relies on the azuki for the sweet taste. Some Japanese restaurants go over board making green tea matcha taste sweet, so this was a refreshing choice.
But you know what caught my attention today? It wasn’t the Bing Soo. It was this.
It’s Dduk Bok Gi. Now, I was originally told that Dduk Bok Gi is a kind of Korean Ramen. I was misinformed. There’s a type of Dduk Bok Gi that is served with ramen — the Gochujang Dduk Bok Gi which is served with noodles. This is the Yeob Gi, which is served with Mozarella Cheese and Sausages.
The taste was very surprising. It reminded me of Pork and Beans — but very, very spicy. Ridiculously spicy. I am a strong spicy eater but this was too much even for me! I ended up eating this and then taking a few spoons of my Bing Soo to cool off, then eating it again, Bing Soo, lather rinse repeat.
I couldn’t have eaten this without the Bing Soo! If I had some Barley Tea that would have worked better, but I didn’t so I had to make do with the weak milk from the Bing Soo to help alleviate the fire in my mouth.
The Dduk Bok Gi (or “tteokbokki” depending on how you romanize it) is a spicy rice cake. It’s the round things you see in the picture up there. It tastes like Chikuwa fish cakes, but is very spicy. The spice comes from Gochujang, which is Korean’s famous chili sauce, used in everything from Kimchi to Bibimbap. You can think of it as an Ultra Hot flavor of Mochi if that makes it easier to understand.
The rice cakes used here are very high-quality, though, which is what I’ve come to expect from Seol Hwa. I’ve had a lot of cakes which are not soft and chewy but tough and annoying. These were spot on. They’re also served with some triangular wedges of fish cake — I am not sure what they are called, but I have eaten them in various Japanese hot pots or nabes that I’ve sampled over the years.
There’s also some cabbage leaves inside, so you have a nice somewhat healthy meal, and the mozarella on top is just oozing with goodness.
This was the spiciest thing I’ve eaten all year round, and I spent some time eating with Indians back in September. It’s great. It’s awesome food. I love it! Don’t order this without a Bing Soo by your side and a huge glass of water. Or better yet, some spice-killing Barley Juice or Barley Tea. You’ll need it.
The Seol Hwa experience was amazing. It’s pricy, but well-worth it. I would like to note that the Bing Soo taste is not very creamy or rich; instead it’s very subtle and delicate, but the ingredients all taste great. If you want something creamy you’ll want to go somewhere else, like Coldstone. This is an ice-based dessert so it’s not very creamy, but since the ice is frozen flavored liquid, it tastes the same whether it’s melted or not. That’s a great plus to this Bing Soo, so you can take your time eating and not be worried that the taste will get watered down.
Another great thing I noticed was that, despite the El Nino heat, the Bing Soo took a while to melt. So yes, you really could take your time eating it, and I did, in between gulps of the Dduk Bok Gi.
I heartily recommend giving this place a visit. And if you’re looking for something spicy, try ordering the DDuk Bok Gi. It’s different and it will change your life. Heh heh heh.