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.
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.
Here, we list the places to go for these Korean-style desserts.
Bing Go Jung’s Madam Yun Bo Yong with the dessert house’s signature patbingsu and Oreo waffle. Image: Lau Fook Kong
1. 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
2. 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
Injeolmi toast, coffee bingsu and blueberry bingsu. Image: Ong Wee Jin
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.
4. 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
5. 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
6. 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
7. 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)
8. 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
9. 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
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.
Mocao Dream ($6.50) at Milkcow. Image: Milkcow
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)
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
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
13. 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
14. 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.
Honey Creme Alishan Milk Tea soft serve. Image: Honey Creme
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
This article was first run in The Straits Times newspaper on March 15, 2015. For similar stories, go to sph.straitstimes.com/premium/singapore. You will not be able to access the Premium section of The Straits Times website unless you are already a subscriber.