Desserts are the next big Korean thing in Singapore

Desserts are the next big Korean thing to arrive, from soft serve ice cream to J-cone to bingsu, a shaven ice treat

First came K-dramas and K-pop. Then came Korean cuisine such as Korean barbecue, bibimbap and all things kimchi.

Now, diners are heading in droves to Korean dessert cafes and shops selling delectable sweet treats.

One of the most popular items is patbingsu (pat means red bean and bingsu is shaved ice), which many liken to a Korean version of the local ice kacang. The dessert is shaved ice topped with ingredients such as red beans, soya bean powder, injeolmi (Korean rice cake) and sweet potato paste, and drizzled with evaporated or condensed milk.

Localised versions of the dessert include toppings such as ice cream, various nuts and chopped fruit.

Many cafes selling the iced dessert also serve sweet thick toast topped with similar ingredients.

Another hot favourite is the Instagram-worthy Korean-style vanilla soft serve topped with a golden nugget of honeycomb and other toppings such as chocolate sauce, cookie crumbs, nuts and gooey caramel.

No fewer than 15 of such cafes have opened over the past six months and many Korean restaurants are hopping on the bandwagon by bumping up their dessert offerings.

Madam Yun Bo Yong, 43, directing manager of Bing Go Jung in Guillemard Road, says bingsu started in the Joseon Dynasty (1392 - 1897) when ice was stored in ice houses (called Binggo). The king would distribute ice to military officials who crushed it and ate it with fruit.

Mr Fong Jing Hui, 28, manager of Korean dessert joint One Ice Cafe in JCube, says: "There are a lot of Korean restaurants opening all around Singapore, but most are serving Korean barbecue and rarely desserts. That's why we decided to focus on bingsu. It is also very suited to the weather in Singapore."

The owners of Stateland Cafe in Bali Lane are among those riding the K-dessert wave. In October last year, they opened soft serve shop Honeycomb in Bali Lane. This was followed by Korean fried chicken restaurant Chick And Ken at Raffles Park last month, which serves bingsu.

One of Stateland Group's partners, Mr Yeo Chern Yu, 23, says: "I do believe we owe the craze for Korean food and desserts to the K-pop wave. Korean cosmetics have hit the Singapore market and Singaporeans are also more exposed to the food culture in South Korea."

Honeycomb sells up to 100 cups of soft serve on weekdays and 150 cups on weekends. The menu will undergo a revamp in June to include more new items, Mr Yeo adds.

While South Korea has bingsu options to suit the seasons, in Singapore, brands are churning out flavours to fit special occasions or feature local flavours.

One of the early entrants to the scene, Honey Creme at 313@Somerset, has since introduced flavours such as Honey Creme Alishan Milk Tea, Teh C and Gah Dai.

The Teh C soft serve is made with milk tea, while the Gah Dai is topped with cotton candy and toasted marshmallow.

Cafe and restaurant owners say the craze has yet to hit fever pitch, so expect more of such shops to open and more dessert varieties to be introduced.

For example, three-month-old Insadong Korea Town in Resorts World Sentosa, which is run by the Ministry Of Food group, serves its soft serve with churros, a Spanish fried dough fritter.

And do not miss the eye-catching J-cone, a popular Korean street snack also known as "Jipangyi" or "Seoul cane ice cream". The crunchy cone, made with dried sweet corn, is filled with creamy soft serve.

Swept up in the K-dessert trend is Singapore Management University business undergraduate Bernard Lee, 23, who was at Korean soft serve joint Milkcow with his schoolmates.

He says: "Everyone is queuing for these trendy desserts. They have to stand out from one another so I would love for Milkcow to have more flavours such as banana and green tea. But I do think the soft serve here is tastier than others I have tried. I have heard a lot about bingsu, so I wouldn't mind trying it.

"And since all this is Korean-style, what about kimchi or barbecue pork flavour?"

euniceq@sph.com.sg


BINGSU, INJEOLMI AND MORE

BING GO JUNG

What: Those familiar with the popular Ju Shin Jung Korean Charcoal BBQ restaurant chain, which opened in 2003, can now head to its offshoot, a dessert place called Bing Go Jung. Bingsu options (from $9) include Injeolmi Bingsu, a soya bean powder and rice cake bingsu; patbingsu, milk and red bean bingsu; and melon bingsu.

Toast (from $5) flavours include Injeolmi; caramel and cinnamon; and citron. Those who love waffles should try the Hoddeok Waffle with black sugar and nuts; caramel and cinnamon waffle; and red bean waffle.

Where: 102 Guillemard Road, 01-01; open: noon to 11pm daily

Info: Call 6440-5509

INSADONG KOREA TOWN

What: For a slice of Korea, head to Insadong Korea Town at Resorts World Sentosa. Korean dishes - from appetisers and noodles to hotplate sets and bibimbap - are available on the extensive menu.

Complete your meal with desserts such as churros with soft serve ($7), red bean shaved ice ($10); and the popular J-Cone ($6). The crunchy cone, made with sweet corn, is filled with vanilla soft serve and makes a perfect theme park snack.

The 8,000 sq ft Insadong Korea Town, which also has Western and Japanese food options, is run by the Ministry of Food group of restaurants.

Where: Resorts World Sentosa (near Trickeye Museum), 01-30/33, 26 Sentosa Gateway; open: 11.30am to 10pm (Monday to Thursday, Sunday and public holiday), 11.30am to 10.30pm (Friday, Saturday and eve of public holiday)

Info: Call 6238-8378

NUNSONGYEE

What: Two-month-old Nunsongyee (Korean for snow flake) dessert cafe specialises in bingsu and toast. Popular items include injeolmi bingsu ($14.90), cheesecake bingsu ($14.90), sweet Korean rice cake with cheese ($8.90) and honey butter injeolmi toast ($12.90). Premium bingsu options include black sesame bingsu ($18.90) and coffee bingsu ($18.90). Coffee, tea and smoothies are also available.

Where: 45 Burghley Drive, 01-04; open: noon to 10pm (Tuesday to Thursday), noon to 11pm (Friday), 10am to 11pm (Saturday), 10am to 10pm (Sunday), closed on Monday.

CHICK AND KEN

What: Korean fried chicken shop Chick And Ken features cooling bingsu desserts. Options include classic injeolmi ($12.90) with roasted soya bean powder, corn flakes, homemade rice cakes and red bean; the Thai-inspired Cha-Yen ($12.90) with Thai tea glace, red rubies and Thai tea gelee; and Watermelon & Berries ($13.90) with watermelon juice, watermelon cubes, mint gelee and strawberries.

Where: Raffles Park, 21 Lorong Telok; open: noon to 10pm, Monday to Saturday, closed on Sunday

Info: Call 9150-7257 or go to www.facebook.com/pages/Chick-And-Ken/339298946271500

ONE ICE CAFE

What: Those living in the west can head to JCube's J-Avenue for some Korean desserts. Highlights include patbingsu ($6.80) with azuki beans, almond, cornflakes, rice cakes and jelly, topped with vanilla ice cream; and choco-banana ($8.80) with bananas, crushed cookie, wafer sticks and double chocolate ice cream. The menu also includes shin ramyun ($6.50) with a canned drink of choice; red velvet waffles ($9.50) topped with vanilla ice cream and blueberries; and Korean tea ($4.20 a pot).

Where: JCube, 02-67, 2 Jurong East Central 1; open: 11am to 10pm daily

Info: www.facebook.com/one.ice.cafe

CAFE INSADONG

What: Korean desserts meet art at Cafe Insadong, which is named after the street in Seoul popular for art and tea shops. Patbingsu options include red bean and sweet potato ($9); Oreo ($9); and green tea ($9.50).

For a hearty tea break, try the injeolmi thick toast. Flavours include Nutella and ice cream ($6), red bean ($5) and a savoury bulgogi beef ($6.50). The art pieces by Korean artists displayed at the cafe are also for sale.

Where: 279 South Bridge Road; open: noon to 9pm (Monday to Thursday), noon to 11pm (Friday and Saturday), 2 to 8pm (Sunday)

Info: Call 8533-2003 or go to www.facebook.com/cafeinsadong

CHICKEN UP

What: It may be known for its tasty Korean fried chicken, but Chicken Up is fast becoming popular for its Korean desserts too. End the meal with a refreshing melon bingsu, or matcha patbingsu with finely shaved ice topped with sweet azuki beans and matcha ice cream.

Where: Three outlets at 48 Tanjong Pagar Road; 01-44 to 01-47, 2 Tampines Central 5; 60 Queen's Street, Tastebud Foodcourt (Beside Bugis+); open: Tanjong Pagar - 5.30pm to 2am (Monday to Thursday), 5.30pm to 3am (Friday and Saturday), 5.30pm to midnight (Sunday); Tampines - 11.30am to 11pm daily; Queen's Street - 11.30am to 11.30pm (Tuesday to Sunday, closed on Monday)

Info: www.facebook.com/ChickenUp

ONE THING COFFEE KIDS CAFE

What: This child-friendly Korean cafe's menu has a selection of desserts such as patbingsu ($14), pat juk (red bean porridge, $12), as well as thick toast with options including caramel ($6), chocolate ($6) or ice cream ($8). Other items include sandwiches, waffles and smoothies.

Where: B2-17, Bukit Timah Shopping Centre, 170 Upper Bukit Timah Road, open: 10am to 9pm (Monday to Saturday), 10am to 8pm (Sunday)

Info: Call 9788-1276 or go to www.facebook.com/pages/One-Thing-Coffee-Kids-Café/276697055841543

I SCREAM

What: While ice cream is the main focus of this cafe by Arteastiq Boutique Tea House at Mandarin Gallery, the menu also features a small selection of bingsu ($6.90 each) options. Items include Berry Awesome Bingsu with raspberry ice cream, red bean and marshmallow, Man-Go-Mad Bingsu with mango ice cream, red bean and marshmallow, Black Bingsu with black rice ice cream and red bean.

Where: 01-109, Block 89 Bedok North Avenue 4; open: noon to midnight daily

Info: Call 6445-5739 or go to www.facebook.com/iScreamSG


KOREAN SOFT SERVE

MILKCOW

What: The Korean franchise makes its way to Singapore, after opening in the Philippines and Malaysia. The flagship outlet at The Cathay serves its signature soft serve made with organic milk from grass-fed cows.

Flavours include Milky Peace ($6.50), with pistachio syrup, sunflower seeds and cashew nut clusters; Milky Honey ($5.50), with organic liquid honey; Mocao Dream ($6.50), with a macaron and almond flakes; and Golden Angel ($5.50), with white chocolate syrup. Extra toppings include Kit Kat ($1.50) and honey cubes ($1.50).

Where: The Cathay, 01-03, 2 Handy Road; open: 11.30am to 9.50pm (Sunday to Thursday), 11.30am to 10.50pm (Friday, Saturday, eve of and on public holiday)

Info: www.facebook.com/MilkCow.Sg

HONEYCOMB

What: This five-month-old brand by the owners of Stateland Cafe in the Bugis area serves mainly milk-based and yogurt-based soft serve ice cream.

Popular flavours include the classic (yogurt), apple and cinnamon, and matcha.

Other options include Honey Chip Chocolate with fresh honeycomb, liquid honey and chocolate sauce; and Honey Chip Granola with fresh honeycomb, liquid honey and granola.

Prices start at $6.

Where: 30 Bali Lane; open: noon to 10pm (Monday, Wednesday and Thursday), noon to midnight (Friday and Saturday), 11am to 6pm (Sunday), closed on Tuesday

Info: Call 9800-7628 or go to www.facebook.com/honeycombsg

BEEGURT

What: Instead of the usual soft serve, Beegurt cafe features frozen yogurt with raw honeycomb. Prices start at $3.70 for original froyo, or go for the Beegurt special of froyo with raw honeycomb and two toppings at $6.80.

Where: Thomson V Two, 01-21, 11 Sin Ming Road; open: noon to 11pm (Sunday to Thursday), noon to 1am (Friday and Saturday)

Info: Go to www.facebook.com/Beegurt

DANMI SOFT

What: Get your fix of soft serve from Danmi Soft, which shares the same space as pay-per-use cafe and co-working space Coffeemin at Suntec City.

Flavours include Danmi Choco ($3.90), Danmi Strawberry ($3.90) and Danmi Caramel Popcorn ($4.90). Bestsellers include Manuka ($3.90), Affogato ($4.90) and Honeycomb ($5.90).

Where: Suntec City, 03-377 (beside Golden Village cinemas), 3 Temasek Boulevard; open: 11am to 10pm daily

Info: Call 6238-0370 or go to www.facebook.com/danmisoft

HONEY CREME

What: One of the first few Korean-style soft serve brands in the market, the Taiwanese chain is still thriving amid competition from new brands.

Bubble tea meets soft serve with its Honey Creme Alishan Milk Tea ($5.50) with milk tea, cookie crumbs and honey-coated pearls.

Other signature items include soft serve topped with caramel popcorn, and cotton candy spun from organic sugar.

Where: 313@Somerset, 01-37, 313 Orchard; open: 11am to 9.30pm daily

Info: www.facebook.com/honeycremesg