Seems that Bing Soo is all the rage these days. Although I consider myself a non-conformist, I can’t help but be interested in the awesome Korean cold dessert that is called Bing Soo (or Bingsu, or Bingsoo, or whatever). It’s the Korean equivalent of Japan’s Kakigori, America’s Shaved Ice, and our very own Halo Halo.
Of course, Halo Halo is still the best *smirk* but we must learn to appreciate each other and become cultured! So here I am testing out all the Bing Soo places I can find.
One of the more interesting places is this place called Ice Flower in Molito, Alabang. It’s right next to Gold’s Gym and Mr. Park’s and Chicken and Beer. It doesn’t seem to be as well-known as Cafe Seol Hwa but that may just be a travesty.
The place is quaint, and a good place to cool off after a grueling work out at the gym, if you feel like getting some extra calories, that is. That said, for an icy treat these Bing Soo’s aren’t that unhealthy and are a decent food choice as they don’t use that much sugar and condensed milk, and have relatively tame flavors like black sesame and macha(nokcha) green tea.
So I don’t know what to say about its interior design, but I do know what to say about its food.
There is no doubt, but this is top-notch Bingsoo. The ice is very finely-ground into little cylinders, but it surprisingly doesn’t melt fast. I recommend mixing their Bingsoos after you take some off the top; they all tend to taste better after being mixed.
The Black Sesame Bingsoo was the first dish I tried. It has a weird look to it, very Far East Asian-Exotic in style, with shaved almonds garnishing a huge chunk of Ice Flower’s wonderful shaved ice. Ground black sesame powder is on top of that, with some red Azuki Bean on top, and some chunks of injeolmi at the very top. It’s served, as are all their bingsoo, with a small quantity of condensed milk.
Now, how does it taste? It has a very earthy flavor to it. I don’t mean to say it tastes like dirt, but when I take a scoop I feel like I am drawn into the woods, the scent of moss and earth running through my nose as my skin feels the light tinge of the breeze. It’s not very sweet at all; the sesame is completely nutty and having the almond slivers only accentuates that impression.
There is a little sugar that you can taste mixed into the ice, but it hardly makes an impression; instead you are greeted by the earthy taste of the sesame. You add some of the azuki into the equation for some sweetness, and the injeolmi provides a wonderful soft texture (think of it as Korean mochi).
The milk on the other hand is not very exciting. It adds some much needed sweetness to the dessert, if you have a sweet tooth, but tastes very mild. It is miles away from the incredible-tasting condensed milk they serve with kakigori in Japan, like you would get from Hana in Little Tokyo. I’m surprisingly unhappy with the milk, but only because I’m comparing it with the one they use in kakigori.
Next is the chocolate flavor. I’m not usually a big fan of chocolate unless it’s actual milk chocolate, but the Chocolate Bingsoo was Ice Flower’s best offering so far. With a completely Western vibe, this bingsoo comes with French cocoa powder slathered all over the ice, some brownies on the side, and a curl of whip cream on top.
Just looking at it, I can tell this is Ice Flower’s most decadent bingsoo. That’s probably why I like it the best. You know what they say; the better it tastes, the unhealthier it is. My Unhealth Meter is very well-developed, I assure you.
The ice is the same, and it’s great ice. The cocoa powder has built in sweetness to it, surprisingly. I thought it wouldn’t be too sweet and have more of that cacao taste, but this is definitely the sweetest of the three bingsoo I tried. Not to say it doesn’t taste chocolatey; far from it. But whatever chocolate powder they used, it’s probably the type used for confections and is quite sweet.
The brownies were surprisingly good. Not the best I’ve had, a bit crusty, but not dry. They fit in great with the dish, but they aren’t the oozing awesome decadent brownies with super moist milkiness and thick icing. There is no icing. But that’s all for the better in this icy dish.
I didn’t care much for the cream, I just mixed it in with the rest of the dish after pouring in the milk.
The final dish is the Mixed Berry Bingsoo. Unlike the other two, this one has no powder adoring the ice…. or does it? Instead of black sesame or chocolate powder, mixed berry comes with yogurt powder! This is the bingsoo that has a sour taste. However, it’s actually quite refreshing.
I have a love hate relationship with this one. When I first bit in, I didn’t like it at all. It tasted sour, with just a small hint of sweetness in the ice (like the Black Sesame), and I just munched on the berries for taste. I love those antioxidants in the blue berries!
But after I mixed in the condensed milk and mushed the whole thing together, a different character emerged. It suddenly had a tartness that tickled my tongue, but a layer of sweetness into the taste that teased my senses. It was a wonderful, splendid contrast. Then you pop in a nearby berry and get a kind of “cherry on top” feeling to it all.
So I change my mind; this was actually a very good bingsoo! It’s probably their most complex bingsoo taste-wise, so give it some time before you judge it. I ended up loving it.
So those were the three dishes I tried, but you know what really makes Ice Flower special?
I swear, the proprietor of this shop must be crazy. You see that little room in the back? It’s got a weird contraption on top of it that churns out snow 24/7 in this room; or at least whatever the operating hours are.
It must be a huge hit with the kids, you can see that little girl in the picture enjoying the artificial snow on the ground. once I came in at 12 noon and the snow was pouring from up on high, piling up into little icy stalagmites.
I couldn’t resist; so I went in and cooled myself off as well as let the little kid in me have some fun. Hehehe!
Believe me, this room is awesome. Those of you with kids will want to go here; every single kid I see come in here just can’t stop hyperventilating about this little room.
It must cost a fortune in energy to run, but it’s really a signature part of Ice Flower and it’s “Snow Falling” mystique. Kudos to the proprietor; you’ll see him in the back running the place from time to time.
I only wish Ice Flower the best; it doesn’t get packed like Cafe Seol Hwa. I’ve been here three times and each time it only had a handful of customers. Seol Hwa on the other hand you have to fight for a table. I don’t want to say which one is better just yet, I need to go back to Seol Hwa to try their other flavors. But if we’re talking about taste, I find Ice Flower to be more understated and less “sweet” compared to Seol Hwa.
But again, I should order the same Bingsoo flavor from each so I can really figure out which one is best.
That said, come on over and bring your kids! This place is sure to be a hit.