seoul searching, no. 9
A few years ago, my roommate was in the pastry department at la brea bakery. that was when campanile was doing family dinner on monday nights. mark peel would come up with a menu that was made for family-style dining – plates of food placed in the center of the table from which everyone would take their portions. big salads, bowls of pasta, vegetables, and other good, home-y foods.
For one of the nights, he wanted to do a korean family dinner. my roommate always hyped up korean food, and since it’s always served family style, it was perfect. with her guidance, chef peel planned campanile’s version of a typical korean barbecue: steamed rice, bulgogi and galbee, jahp-chae, kimchee, and a few other bahn-chan. but they were stumped when they had to find a dessert for the menu.
Traditionally, there is no real concept of having dessert after a korean meal. koreans have sweets like cookies, pastries, and cakes made from sweet rice, but these are not “dessert” in the regular sense. sometimes, sweet rice or persimmon punch is served after a meal, or cut fresh fruit, but nothing like our typical ideas of dessert: sorbet, tiramisu, apple pie. what mark and my roommate finally ended up doing was paht bing-soo.
Paht is a sweet red bean that is used often in asian cuisines. if we frequent japanese food places, we may be familiar with red bean flavored ice cream, or mochi and other pastries filled with red bean paste. koreans and chinese also use paht as a sweet filling. bing-soo is shaved ice, and together, paht bing-soo is shaved ice served with sweet red bean paste – a sort of neo-asian hybrid version of a sno-cone and a banana split. the l.a. times had an entire story on asian ice desserts, including bing-soos, last summer.
It isn’t really fair to compare paht bing-soo to a snow cone at all, because the shaved ice is the beginning and the end of their similarity. a snowcone is merely a baseball- (maybe softball-) sized scoop of shaved ice plopped into a flimsy paper cone and drizzled with neon red, blue, green or other syrup. paht bing-soo, in all its weird, twisted translation of western foods, is so much more.
Shaved ice is served in a bowl, and embellished with toppings as varied as, but decidedly different from, a banana split. as the name requires, all proper paht-bing-soos are topped with a generous helping of paht. either sweetened condensed milk or half-and-half are drizzled on top, and some cafes add strawberry or fruit flavored syrup (so, i guess i spoke too soon about having no more similarities with the snowcone). after that, the choices are endless, and only depend on your personal preference: small scoops of any flavor of ice cream, crushed peanuts, fresh cut fruit like bananas, pears, apples, or any kind of berry. for some reason koreans have a love affair with canned and instant foods, so fruit cocktail, mandarin oranges, and diced jell-o called “crystal jelly,” are popular (the most common “paht” is actually out of a can). there are also categorically korean things like soy powder and dime-sized pieces of dduk (rice-flour cakes). the funniest thing i’ve seen is cereal - corn flakes and froot loops!
Korean cafes aren’t as accessible to me as the many boba tea stands in this area which serve the chinese version. it’s the same, with simply the addition to the topping possibilities: lychee, mango pudding, almond jelly, black pearl (boba) and a few that are written in chinese and would probably only appeal to the people who could read it. after dinner on sawtelle, i like to stop by volcano tea or cafe paradiso (f.k.a. relaxtation) for some shaved ice.
Campanile’s paht-bing-soo was shaved ice with the requisite paht and condensed milk. chef peel also added the strawberry syrup for color, and because it was summer, added the in-season cantaloupe and honeydew melon in balls. it was a hit that night, though i’m sure it would have been the talk of the town if he had added a handful of lucky charms!
2111 sawtelle blvd.
los angeles, ca 90064