Move over, cheesecakes and ice creams, these 5 Korean traditional desserts will satisfy you like no other! Is there room for dessert? Always.
1. Patbingsoo (팥빙수, shaved ice with red beans)
Korea boasts a wide selection of cafe franchises that sell variations of the classic dessert menu “patbingsoo”. “Pat (팥)” means red beans, while “bingsoo (빙수)” means shaved ice. This dessert is often served with red beans, condensed milk, and bean powder on top of shaved ice.
Of course, the creative Koreans also made “melon-bingsoo” or “mango-bingsoo”, or even more fusion versions like “oreo-bingsoo” or “tiramisu-bingsoo” too. With all kinds of shaved ice flavors being sold at thousands of cafe locations, South Koreans love sharing a bowl to cool off in the summer!
2. Hoddeok (호떡, sweet sticky pancakes)
“Hoddeok (호떡)” is a popular street food that is somewhere in between a pancake and a rice cake. The flour-based dough, filled with sugar in the middle, is rounded into a ball then pressed flat on a hot pan. The street vendors will often fold the “hoddeok” in half and serve it in a paper cup. The sugar melts into a warm, gooey syrup and burns the top of your mouth!
There are more fun versions of the “hoddeok” dessert, like the “Ssiat hoddeok (씨앗 호떡)” with nuts, “Cheese hoddeok” with cheese, or “Nokcha hoddeok (녹차 호떡)” with green tea! Some dessert cafes sell “hoddeok” menus with ice cream and fruit toppings, like actual pancakes.
3. Mat-tang (맛탕, glazed sweet potatoes)
Some Korean restaurants will bring out a small plate of “Mat-tang (맛탕)” pieces, once the table is done with the meal. These deep fried then candied sweet potato chunks are sweet and chewy. Of course, the choice of ingredient doesn’t always have to be sweet potatoes. Koreans also enjoy potatoes and pumpkins cooked this way too!
4. Shikhye (식혜, rice drink)
“Shikhye (식혜)” is a sweet drink that contains grains of cooked rice and sometimes pine nuts. Though the ingredients are as simple as water, malted barley flour, sugar, and cooked rice, “shikhye” takes time and patience to make — especially to give it the right amount of sweetness!
Koreans love this drink so much that there is a canned version that is easily spotted in most Korean markets. Many K-Pop idols have confessed their love for “shikhye” and been spotted sipping on this traditional drink.
5. Hwachae (화채, fruit punch)
Along with shaved ice, “Hwachae (화채)” is a super star menu when it comes to summer desserts. Most often served in the form of a “Soobak hwachae (수박 화채, watermelon hwachae)”, this fruit punch dessert is especially beloved because it is easy to make.
Once you dig out the watermelon, you can use the rind as a bowl. Add all kinds of fruit chunks, milk, sprite, and some sort of sweetener like sugar, syrup, or condensed milk. Throw in some ice cubes to serve chilled. Some Koreans even add shots of “Soju (소주, Korean liquor)” to spice it up!