Sometimes I think that I am highly cultured in the culinary arts. That thought is usually followed up with me ordering in a grilled cheese sandwich and french fries for dinner, like several nights a week. And while I’m being honest, I probably get the grilled cheese and fries from the exact same place more than once a week. It’s fine, I like it. Mind your own damn business.
When it comes to the foods I like (all 5 of them), I make it a point to explore the varieties that begin popping up around the city. As of late, the “shaved ice” craze has been making a killing on the east coast. It appears this dessert trend isn’t going to be letting up any time soon either. At least not with the addition of Bingbox Snow Cream Co., which opened this Spring in the East Village.
I went to visit Bingbox recently to see what it was all about, and of course to broaden my ever-growing cultural culinary knowledge. So, I wanted to get some shaved ice to eat. In my previous experience with shaved ice that is referred to as “snow cream” I have always seen a giant spinning machine shredding the pre-made flavor into fluffy pieces (don’t get too caught up on my eloquent description of the technical kitchen equipment jargon). At Bingbox, things looked a bit different. There were two metal freezers, or maybe they were ice machines, filled with lots of thinly shredded shaved ice. The flavors are essentially made when you order by pouring the liquid flavor over the ice. To be honest, the process is slightly more intricate, but you get the point…
Each Bingbox is served in a plastic box, hence the name, and accompanied by a selection of toppings. There is a small menu of pre-made Bingbox’s or you can customize your own. Obviously I customized mine. I got chocolate flavored shaved ice with Oreos, rainbow sprinkles, Mochi, strawberries, wafers, chocolate drizzle and condensed milk! BOOM! It was delicious! Not that I was surprised as I never doubt my topping and flavor choices.
The shaved ice had a much different consistency than I was expecting. The pieces were much smaller, a little more dense, and a lot colder than what I had been used to. I’d say the taste was most similar to chocolate Italian ices whereas previous shaved ice has a closer texture to ice cream. Regardless of what kind of shaved ice I’m eating, I love it and this was no exception!
Now, you may be wondering why I started writing about being cultured and crap. I will now set the record straight. About a year and a half ago, if you asked me what shaved ice was, I’d tell you it was the same thing as a Sno-cone that you can get at a Carnival. It’s literally shaved ice with flavor poured on top. If you asked me what snow cream or snow fluff was, I’d look at you like you were a fucking moron making up words. Hopping back into our Delorean at 88 mph, we return to present day where I now feel culturally informed enough to explain to you the differences between all of these snow and ice related desserts.
We all understand the typical carnival Sno-cone, correct? Moving on, we have Taiwanese style shaved ice. This is the fluffy type that’s lighter than ice cream, but also creamy. This is also often referred to as shaved snow or snow fluff because the texture is more like soft snow than crunchy ice. There is another version from Korea called Patbingsu. Patbingsu or Bing as it is often referred to, is a Korean snow cream dessert. This is what Bingbox is! Most of these are used interchangeably and I have also seen some places serve combination Thai/Korean shaved ice.
No matter the name, the point here is that I know cool facts about desserts from Taiwan and Korea. I also know what Patbingsu is. If that doesn’t make me a cultured culinary connoisseur, then I don’t know what does.