▲ For a healthy treat, Gallery Café serves green tea bingsu. Photo by Kimberly Comeau
The Gallery Café is located in the middle of Seogwipo City and is famous among locals for its nok cha (green tea) bingsu (shaved ice) and pat (red bean) bingsu. The café opened in April, 2003, and at that time served only patbingsu and few other beverages.
Patbingsu is one of Korea’s more traditional desserts. Originally, patbingsu consisted only of sweetened red beans and shaved ice. Today it has evolved to include sweet toppings like chopped nuts and fruit, condensed milk, fruit syrups, and other ingredients such as injeolmi (rice cake coated in bean powder), jelly candies, ice cream, and cereal.
I heard a rumor that Jeju was the first to introduce fruit to the dessert. Whether there is any truth to that, I do not know. Now, almost everywhere in Korea serves it with fruit.
In 2007, Koreans started to become more conscious of what they ate. There was a rave about green tea and how good it is for your skin, weight loss, and general health. The owner and manager of Gallery Café, Kim Ji Hi, thought it would be a clever idea to develop a recipe with green tea and to include it on her menu.
As the interview with Kim began I was sitting across from this shy café owner, a mother of three, as we shared a green tea bingsu. She admits to me that when she the café she thought she would have the opportunity to pursue her hobbies of art and drawing, but her café has kept her far too busy.
The atmosphere is very comfortable. It is filled with comfy couches and pillows and is very spacious and bright. It has an artful feel with large paintings and even a drawing completed by Kim Ji Hi. In the middle of the café there is a tree painted white, with beautiful ornaments hanging from it.
She decorates the tree differently for each season. For summer, blue sparkling fish dangle from the tree. The balcony displays many plants and herbs. Kim says that she designed the interior herself. She loves drawing and other forms of art, and it shows in her café’s style. Its decor is so unique and beautiful that customers at times have “taken” things home with them. In fact, these days she has to keep many of her special items hidden to keep them from being stolen.
Nokcha bingsu begins with a “special ingredient,” part of a secret recipe only the owner knows. It is the perfect mixture of shaved ice, malcha (powdered green tea) from O’Sulloc, and a touch of sweetness. She used to share her recipe with her employees until other cafés and restaurants were popping up with nokcha bingsu on their menus. She now keeps the recipe secret and prepares it herself. She is continuously improving her recipe by tweaking the ingredients for the best taste.
Next, is a mixture of fresh fruit (depending on the season) like kiwi, banana, watermelon, fruit cocktail, corn, injeolmi, or corn flakes. Kiwi and banana are always included, but the watermelon is included only during the summer. Strawberry is substituted for watermelon during the spring.
The injeolmi is ordered fresh each morning to ensure the best quality and taste. Lastly, the dish is topped with rich green tea ice cream with specks of red bean inside to give it a small taste of tradition. To eat this fabulous dessert, the ice cream on top is usually consumed first, and then everything is mixed together and can be shared by two, three or even four people, depending on their appetite.
The Gallery Café also serves coffee, tea and shakes. Unlimited toast is provided with your beverage order, and the place is busiest are after dinner when dessert is popular.
(Interpretation by Kim Jung Lim)
Gallery Café 27 Taepyeong-ro 431, Seogwipo City Hours: Every day, 11:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Phone: 064-762-3151
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