Snowflakes in A Rice Bowl

What’s the hippest thing to eat during the terribly burning summer heat? Ice cream? Lemon tea? Yogurt? None of the above. It’s time you learn how to eat cool.

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Once again, it’s the Koreans who have created the latest food sensation after fried chicken and Korean BBQ. Yet, unlike the other culinary stars, this sweet treat isn’t getting popular because of cheesy Korean soap operas or glamorous ad campaigns. It’s simply getting looks because it’s such a delicious novelty.

With growing levels of curiosity, we finally took the plunge and jumped out to a place nearby, where a sprawling collection of Korean businesses lie. What we were hunting down was a mountainous bowl of so-called “snowflakes” (coined by us?), topped with assorted fruits and sweetened syrup. According to the pictures found on the outdoor menu, we located a Taiwanese dessert shop, which offers a slightly different variety that appears to obsess over the inclusion of beans into all their desserts. We ordered the Red Bean and Taro style. It was sweet. It was chilled, but you know what? The ice flakes and sugar flavor were nothing special. Be warned, eat all the fruit and syrup too fast and all you got left is half melting ice. Big on hydration, lacking in flavor.

Convinced that our preliminary exploration had crashed and melted, we vowed to live again—if only to find that exquisitely delicious ice of which the city raves.

Sulbing (설빙), meaning snow and ice, indeed looks very similar to bingsu, which is what we had just eaten at the Taiwanese place, but don’t accidentally get confused and buy the wrong thing. Bingsu is mainly shaved ice with the sweet toppings and sulbing uses snowy flakes made of frozen milk, making your dessert both sweeter and creamier.

Convinced that our preliminary exploration had crashed and melted, we vowed to live again—if only to find that exquisitely delicious ice of which the city raves. Our second effort ended up humorously neighboring the first spot of which we fostered probably far too much scorn.

Climbing just a bit too many stairs to the second floor, we were hot and there was only one thing on our minds: tiny, intricate snowflakes that had the distinct taste of chilled heaven. Approaching the shimmering counter, our eyes quickly focused on a bowl of snow-white flakes gently resting beneath a small collection of the reddest strawberries that you ever did see. With each new spoonful, we knew we had found something special. The difference? The ice used in this rendition was made with milk, giving the dessert all kinds of sensations, from sour to sweet and cold to warm, all in your mouth in an instant. Here, even when the fruit is gone, we keep eating. When we leave, the dessert is merely a vacant shell of its former self.

0816_D&D2None of us believe in love at first sight and though second sight still seems pretty unlikely, it was convincing. With that, we popped over to Wanda Plaza in Dongcheng to find the most authentic version of the Korean hit.

The toppings here cover everything you can imagine: fruits, chocolate, red beans, cheeses and nuts. The most popular flavor for Asians is injeolmi (Korean rice cake). Presented in a traditional Korean rice bowl and coming with endless cubes of chewy injeolmi that are also coated in a sweet bean powder and sprinkled with chips of almonds, this is the perfect mate for a generous scoop of ice cream (and perfect for your mate, as well).

Diving deep and collecting a bit of each layer, the fluffy snowflakes, the syrup and the rice cake all combine into a mouthful of one of the richest delights you’ll try this summer. To avoid drinking milk in the end, it is a must to eat faster than the snow melts. You can do it!

The creator of sulbing was first inspired by the dessert cafes in Japan and later established a high-end dessert café back home in Korea, where she invented the classic injeolmi sulbing. The fusion dessert, combining traditional Korean food and Western milk products, including ice cream and cheese, became such a phenomenon that she opened the first sulbing-only café in 2013, which featured more than a dozen unique flavors. Only a year after, another 490 stores were established in Korea. Now, the idea has spread to over 16 countries, with China set to receive 150 branches by 2017.

Here in Dongguan, you can usually see these types of shops in high-end shopping areas, such as Wanda Plaza and Dongcheng Walking Street. The high-profile image doesn’t come cheap, though, with prices ranging from 35 to 48 RMB for a small bowl and up to 70 RMB for a bigger bowl. So, the next time you’re certain that you’re moments away from spontaneously combusting, stop, count to 10 and find the nearest sulbing shop. It’ll cool you off and cure any sweet tooth cravings, all while letting you live a bit of the high life, if even for a moment.