Shaved Ice Showdown: Ranking Edmonton’s Best Bingsu

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Korean shaved ice desserts known as Bingsu (or spelt Bingsoo, depending on where you go) hit Edmonton hard and fast last summer (2017). It felt like in a matter of months, half a dozen spots specializing in this sweet, delicious, and highly Instagrammable treat popped up across the city. It’s hugely popular in Asia, but for whatever reason, took until 2017 to land here.

Now it’s honestly one of my preferred desserts– it’s a lighter dessert, it’s typically fruity (my dessert preference), it’s super pretty (we eat with our eyes!) and it’s very refreshing.

Bingsu typically comes in a metal pail, filled with shaved ice, condensed milk (or other types of milk), topped with different fruits (strawberry and mango are very popular), syrups, and additional fun toppings like jellies, cheesecake, nuts, ice cream and whipped cream. It’s a mountain of pretty, deliciousness. There are also specialty Bingsus, like watermelon or even pineapple, where an actual watermelon and pineapple are used as the base of the Bingsu (again, super pretty/highly Instagrammable).

As we started eating at more and more Bingsu spots in Edmonton, my friend Brittney (@britl) would ask whether I found this place better than that place, and my response was, that it was hard for me to remember the nuances of the flavours and textures without comparing them as close to back-to-back as possible.

So she proposed we do just that.

Spend a day trying all (well, we think all– according to our Google searchin’) the Bingsu in Edmonton and doing a comparison for my blog to find / share what we thought was the city’s Best Bingsu.  

I’m calling it the Shaved Ice Showdown!

(Brittney wanted to call it Bingsu Buddies. I said that wasn’t as Google-able lol).

Shaved Ice Bingsu Dessert Edmonton Restaurants

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So on a Sunday in June, we tried six Bingsu restaurants in Edmonton, ordering a small Strawberry Bingsu at each spot (for consistency), and judging based on the following three key criteria:

  • Appearance
  • Sweetness/Flavour
  • Texture

As well, we made notes on:

  • The restaurant’s Bingsu toppings/flavour variety
  • Price of the Bingsu
  • Service/staff experience
  • Menu offerings beyond bingsu
  • Overall atmosphere of restaurant
  • Anything else that stood out from our Bingsu experience

After this rigorous process (we both got bingsu bellies and are proud of it lol), Brittney and I both agreed on which place serves up the Best Bingsu in Edmonton, followed by our overall ranking of the city’s Bingsu. You’ll find those below, followed by a deeper dive/analysis of each place we visited.

Let us know how our experiences / Bingsu thoughts line up with yours in the comments, or on social media!

Now, let’s dig in! We s’haven’t got all day! (Shaved ice, get it?)

And the Best Bingsu in Edmonton Goes To…

Hanjan

(located at 3735 99 Street)

Overall Ranking of Edmonton Bingsu Offerings

  1. Hanjan (3735 99 Street)
  2. Snow Bear (10051 109 Street)
  3. Let Eat Snow (9261 34 Avenue)
  4. Snowy Dessert (10209 82 Avenue)
  5. Snowy Village (11022 Jasper Avenue)
  6. Dream Tea House (7912 104 Street)

Why We Ranked The Way We Did

1. Hanjan
3735 99 Street 
Price: $12
Bingsu came out in 9 minutes.  

Hanjan - Bingsu Edmonton

The strawberry bingsu from Hanjan 3735 99 Street.

Brittney: If you follow me at all on social (@britl – shameless plug), you’ll know I love Hanjan. Even so, I didn’t expect the bingsu to top my list. (Sorry Hanjan team, I should never have doubted you.) Hanjan, unlike almost all other spots on this list, doesn’t focus on desserts. They’re a full Korean restaurant and cafe with some of my favourite dishes in the city. This is the only spot on the list you can come and have a full meal with bingsu for dessert. The atmosphere is outstanding and the service has always been fantastic. This was 100% the most beautiful bingsu of the day, in my opinion. Also, after trying so many bingsu in the city – we were surprised to notice that Hanjan’s bingsu doesn’t rely on strawberry syrup! It’s a refreshing and sweet dish without the use of syrup. It was my favourite overall. The sweetness hit the perfect notes, the flavours were exactly what they needed to be, the snow is good and creamy and the size is very good for the price. That said, they do only have three flavours of bingsu, the least of any spot on the list – but what they do have, they do really well.

I can honestly say that Hanjan is one of my top recommendations in #yegfood at the moment.

For lunch, dinner and bingsu.

Linda: Hanjan’s bingsu was actually the very first bingsu I had ever tried in Edmonton. I remember being initially super impressed, but since I hadn’t tried any other bingsu, I didn’t have anything to compare it to. Turns out, even if you have other bingsu to compare it to, Hanjan’s bingsu still comes out on top. Not only is it sweet, like Brittney said, it doesn’t rely on any syrup to be sweet! This is not something I would have necessarily noticed had we had not been trying back-to-back bingsu. I also think the presentation is the best (prettiest), the cuts of strawberry look the most appealing, and the size was the best value for the price. They don’t have whipped cream on their bingsu, which I had become accustomed to at the other bingsu spots, but the ice cream is super sweet and the perfect topping. That you can also get a bunch of savoury items here is also a plus. If you’re here for a meal, you’ve got to get their jaeyuk bokkum (spicy stir fried pork belly with kimchi and rice), and then wrap it up with the best bingsu in Edmonton.

2. Snow Bear
10051 109 Street
Price: $10 (Small) 
Bingsu came out in 6 minutes.

Snow Bear - Bingsu Edmonton

The strawberry bingsu at Snow Bear 10051 109 Street.

Brittney: Snow Bear is in a beautiful space on 109 Street, just south of Jasper Avenue. Warning: the street parking can cause parallel parking meltdowns which, luckily, Bingsu is a perfect way to cool down from! While the service was fine, the shop itself is bright and open with room to maneuver. (Not the case for all Bingsu shops, as you’ll see in our notes.)

As for the Bingus itself – I love the Snow Bear Bingsu! I enjoy being able to watch the milk freeze into falling snow behind the counter. I enjoy the nice touch of the gummi bear on top – but something this post put into focus was how good the snow is on its own. I would say overall, this is the sweetest bingsu on the list – however that sweetness comes from the strawberry syrup they very liberally pour all over the bingsu. Which is great! It does overwhelm all other flavours, which isn’t the best – but the snow itself has a nice texture, it’s pleasing to look at and is milky and refreshing. All in all, I really did enjoy this bingsu and will definitely be back!

Linda: Snow Bear is located in the Mayfair building on Jasper, home to a lot of new(ish) food spots like Cinnaholics, La Carraia Gelateria, Splash Poke, Chinese Crepes, Zen Q, and Monument Coffee. It’s a convenient, central location downtown (which, if you’re lucky, you can get sweet street parking in front of. Brittney and I had some trouble lol). Inside it’s very minimalist and modern looking. (You don’t get as much of a warm atmosphere as some of the other Bingsu spots).

Like Brittney, being able to watch the shave ice / “snowflakes” being made behind the counter is nice. I also agree as a whole (and a bite that includes all aspects of the bingsu), this bingsu is very sweet, but the shaved ice itself is not where most of the sweetness is coming from. It’s coming from the strawberry syrup (which they give you generous amounts of). So for me, in terms of what’s truly a sweet bingsu, I would say Hanjan, since they achieve that sweetness without the help of syrup. However, knowing that you’re likely not just going to eat the shaved ice portion, all together, Snow Bear’s bingsu is definitely one of my top picks in the city.

3. Let Eat Snow
9261 34 Avenue
Price: $11.50
Bingsu came out in 6 minutes. 

Let Eat Snow - Bingsu Edmonton

The strawberry bingsu from Let Eat Snow 9261 34 Ave.

Brittney: Hands down the best service of the entire day. The staff were super friendly and when we returned our dish that hadn’t been completely finished (this was our 4th bingsu of the day!), the staff member made a point of asking me to wait and then coming over to check up on us. It was just that extra step that left me feeling really great about Let Eat Snow – and I can’t wait to go back to try other things on their menu. The space is extremely inviting with an interesting mix of decor and coffee shop vibes.

The Bingsu: This was the most interesting presentation of the day. At Let Eat Snow, they want you to feel like you get enough toppings – so they bury them under a small layer of snow. (Honestly, with our choice being strawberry, it kind of reminded me of the movie Crimson Peak.) It looked beautiful and came in a different bowl than what we were used to and the spoons are small and reminded us of mini shovels. Kudos to the Let It Snow team for trying something different!

The snow here was very nice! It was probably the creamiest and the one that stood out the best on its own without any other toppings. The sad part for us was the strawberries. Both of us felt like these were most likely those frozen/canned strawberries you use for sundaes, rather than crisp, fresh berries. It was a miss for me, although I appreciated that they tried something different.

Linda: While the presentation of the bingsu at Let Eat Snow is certainly the most unique out of all the spots we tried, I don’t know if it was the prettiest (or most Instagrammable). Unlike the other spots, the strawberry presentation was not front and centre. And even more disappointing to me was that the strawberry used in Let Eat Snow’s bingsu looked and tasted a lot like canned strawberries you might get at the store. They really push their 100% real milk and made-to-order (there’s signs posted at the door before you enter and inside the cafe) so I was disappointed we didn’t really get “real” fresh strawberries here.

I also had the highest expectations for Let Eat Snow because I’ve seen a lot of people I follow on social media talk about how much they loved it, and how it is the best in the city, but I wouldn’t say it is. I agree with Brittney that the snow here was probably the creamiest, though it was not using condensed milk (so, lacked the sweetness I wanted. They use whole milk) Overall, the bingsu is still tasty but I actually debated putting Let Eat Snow 4th on the list (after Snowy Dessert). In the end, the warm, inviting, and super cute coffee shop-like environment, with lovely service, still good bingsu (but not the best), and different presentation (but not the prettiest lol) made it inch into 3rd place.

4. Snowy Dessert
10209 82 Avenue
Price: $12
Bingsu came out in 16 minutes.

Snowy Dessert - Bingsu Edmonton

The strawberry bingsu from Snowy Dessert 10209 82 (Whyte) Ave.

Brittney: The staff were friendly and the bingsu was decent. This was a good middle-ground spot, although I found that the bingsu was a bit inconsistent. Linda’s side had more sweetness than mine did, so we actually had very different experiences until we tried the other person’s side. It didn’t have that “pop” of sweetness to me, but it was refreshing and I would probably make this a dessert stop after a meal at Dorinku next door and before a nice walk on Whyte Avenue. There is a small patio in front, a good atmosphere, and pretty standard decor. (Light up snowflakes, etc.) It was nice!

Linda: I’m surprised Brittney didn’t mention a super important aspect to Snowy Dessert that is super relevant for her– their allergy notices! Snowy Dessert does a good job of putting up allergy signs, and if you ask for more information, the friendly staff was able to clarify. I thought this was really great (especially considering the allergy experience at Dream Tea, which we’ll get to).

In terms of taste, as Brittney mentioned, my side was pretty sweet so I actually quite enjoyed my bingsu. I also thought the size of strawberry slices were nice — they were still slices but just a bit thicker and felt like we were given a bit more than what we got at the bottom 2 Bingsu spots. On their menu they did at once point have something called a Bingsu Hotpot which we were super excited to learn more about- apparently it’s like pot you’d see at Chinese hotpot, but with various Bingsu flavours sort of sectioned off in the same pot. I thought that was a pretty cool differentiator on the menu but we were told that unfortunately they don’t offer it anymore :-( They should really update the menu. Lol.

Also – great location! I think super convenient given it’s right on Whyte Ave and right next to one of favourite Japanese restaurants in Edmonton-Dorinku!

5. Snowy Village
11022 Jasper Avenue
Price: $10 
Bingsu came out in 10 minutes.

Snowy Village Bingsu Edmonton

The strawberry bingsu from Snowy Village 11022 Jasper Ave.

Brittney: We started our day at Snowy Village and it was such a rough start. Although the space itself is nice (it has similar light up bingsu’s and snowflakes like Snowy Dessert on Whyte), the bingsu itself wasn’t to my taste. A perk that some might like is that there is a patio at the front of Snowy Village facing Jasper Avenue – although there are no umbrellas for those of us who aren’t huge sun worshippers.

The snow at Snowy Village didn’t stand out to me at all. I didn’t find there was much flavour and the strawberries topping our bingsu were very thinly sliced and there wasn’t as many as I’d have liked to see. All the flavour from this bingsu relied on the strawberry syrup, and I remember taking a few bites and getting ready to leave already. It isn’t one I’ll be back for.

However, shout out to the staff! At one point Linda began coughing a bit and one of them immediately came over with some water for her. That was really sweet and great customer service.

Linda: The small bingsu at Snowy Village comes out looking really small (you know, we eat with our eyes so what I saw was pretty disappointing). It didn’t help that Snowy Village probably had the thinnest slices of strawberries, and also the least amount of strawberries given.

I don’t think the shaved ice was as bland as Brittney felt it was, but it definitely ranked lower compared to the rest we’ve tried. I did think the staff was very nice, and as Brittney mentioned, I totally appreciated them bringing me over water when I started coughing.

I will say though that I have tried the large size mango bingsu here and did think the size/presentation looked great (mango comes in bigger looking chunks, and a large size obviously gets you more fruit) and I remember it being quite enjoyable, but there is definitely a power to having tried bingsus back to back to back and being able to immediately compare like we did that day, so in that case, what we did have at Snowy Village was definitely on the less impressive side of the scale.

As a side note: I have tried their nutella taiyaki dessert as well and did enjoy that! 

6. Dream Tea House
7912 104 Street
Price: $8 
Bingsu came out in 5 minutes.

Dream Tea House - Bingsu Edmonton

The strawberry bingsu from Dream Tea House 7912 104 Ave.

Brittney: I love Dream Tea House and my colleagues and I try to take trips for Bubble Tea as often as we can. (Gotta earn my stamps!) It’s one of my favourite bubble tea spots in the city. That said – I had by far my worst experience at Dream Tea for bingsu. Unlike every other spot on this list, they add almonds to all the bingsu’s except the KitKat flavour. It’s not very clear, so unfortunately we had to send it back because I have a severe allergy. The service around that wasn’t a great experience at all. To top it off, this Dream Tea spot is extremely cramped – there is almost no room to get in and out of spots to sit and I felt really uncomfortable while inside this location.

The positives: this was the fastest bingsu order and the least price.

However, you are getting what you pay for with the other spots. The shaved ice portion of our bingsu had that stale freezer taste you get when something sits in the freezer too long. The strawberry slices were nice, but I overall found this to be pretty inedible. We returned it without eating more than a few bites – and service-wise, the staff didn’t even bother to ask us anything or really acknowledge us at all. I’m definitely sticking to only bubble tea at future visits.

Linda: Dream Tea offers the cheapest bingsu in the city, but when you taste it, you can understand why. The quality is just not there. Before Brittney and I embarked on this bingsu adventure, I had sort of shrugged and said, you know, all the bingsu is probably going to be pretty good because they’re all going to be sweet, and they’re all going to have fruit, which I love. How wrong I was. Dream Tea’s bingsu was the only one of all that we tried, where the shaved ice was completely flavourless. Actually, Brittney pointed out that it did have a flavour, and that was stale ice. Which is super unfortunate, because as she mentioned, they have great bubble tea and I also love their variety of hot food/snacks. I don’t think I have much more to say about our Dream Tea bingsu experience (that Brittney hasn’t already covered). I would not recommend you come here for your bingsu.

After trying so many Bingsus back-to-back, I think both Brittney and I can confidently speak to what we liked and didn’t like about each of these Bingsu spots. I have enjoyed Hanjan’s Bingsu for quite some time now, but hadn’t tried all the other Bingsu spots so I wasn’t fully able to speak to it in a broader sense.

Now I really can, and really do highly recommend it.

Honestly I think you’d have a fine Bingsu experience at any of the Top 5, if you weren’t able to get to Hanjan, Snow Bear, or Let Eat Snow for whatever reason (probably location convenience). it was really just Dream Tea’s Bingsu and overall experience that was subpar, out of the 6 places we tried, and not something either Brittney or I could recommend. (Again, don’t get us wrong–Dream Tea bubble tea, and grabbing some quick snacks/bites there is totally cool, it’s just their Bingsu that is not).

Snow Bear - Bingsu Edmonton

A close-up of the strawberry bingsu!

Overall, the prices for a small bingsu were pretty reasonable. It does get pricey if you start factoring in the fancy presentation / fruit bingsus, like watermelon, honeydew or pineapple (I want to try pineapple so bad!) Most of the bingsus came out in pretty quick, reasonable time. And in terms of variety, with the exception of Hanjan, most of them offered a similar amount of bingsu flavours/toppings, as well as some other desserts and drinks.

We had a lot of fun being Bingsu Buddies for a day, and personally, I’m quite happy that I was able to do this as-close-to-back-to-back comparison, so I can confidently speak to taste/quality of our city’s bingsus. That being said, strawberry bingsu certainly doesn’t speak for ALL bingsu (there’s mango.. more chocolately ones.. pineapple, watermelon, honeydew, etc.) So the topping choice may change the overall taste of your bingsu, however we’re pretty firm on our thoughts about the sweetness/milk/snow. ;) 

Remember, we’d love to hear how our experiences / Bingsu thoughts line up with yours!

Leave a comment or let us know on social media!

If you found this ranking interesting or helpful, please share it! 

Shaved Ice Bingsu Dessert Edmonton Restaurants

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Also if there’s other places that offer Bingsu in Edmonton that we missed, please let us know that too so we can make sure to try and factor into this list!

Linda

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