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New café introducing popular frozen treat in Vietnam to Charlottetown

Lena Nguyen, left, and her mother, Lan, show off one of their top bingsu flavours at Lan's new shop, Galaxy Café & Bingsu, in Charlottetown during its grand opening on Jan. 18. - Daniel Brown/The Guardian.
Lena Nguyen, left, and her mother, Lan, show off one of their top bingsu flavours at Lan's new shop, Galaxy Café & Bingsu, in Charlottetown during its grand opening on Jan. 18. - Daniel Brown/The Guardian. - Daniel Brown
CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. —

For Lena Nguyen, there’s nothing more delectable than bingsu. 

“I really like it in Vietnam. Like, I eat a lot.” 

When she and her family moved from Vietnam to Charlottetown in 2014, she looked everywhere for a place she could get a bowl of the cool and refreshing treat. 

"But I couldn’t find any.” 

Because of this, she learned how to make it herself. When her parents, Thin and Lan, said they were looking to start a business, Lena made them the obvious pitch – a bingsu café. 

“We don’t have one in Charlottetown, why don’t we open one here?” she suggested. 

Less than a year later, Galaxy Café & Bingsu held its grand opening on Jan. 18. It’s located on Kent Street in Charlottetown, right beside The Factory and Hunter’s Ale House. 

So, what’s bingsu? 

A bowl of Galaxy Café’s
A bowl of Galaxy Café’s

 

Originating in Korea, patbingsu is an ice dessert consisting primarily of ice shavings, condensed milk and red beans – in Korean, patbingsu literally translates to “red bean shaved ice”.

Over time, businesses experimented with other flavours that didn’t always include red beans. These flavours became known as bingsu, and often included toppings such as syrup, fruit, chocolate or matcha powder. 

Most of the bingsu on Galaxy Café’s menu also includes a scoop of ice cream. Each flavour is named after one of the stars or planets in the solar system. 

Hailey Ha, a family friend who’s been helping with the café’s marketing, compared the treat to snow cones. People are big on bingsu back home in Vietnam, especially teenagers and young adults. 

“It’s like the most popular thing in Asia. I’m not even joking,” she said. “I had two bingsu this morning already.” 

Part of bingsu’s popularity may come from the toppings being designed to look like something, such as bears. It could also be because it's a relatively healthy alternative to other frozen treats, she said. 

“It’s just very healthy vibes.” 

The Nguyen’s wanted to open the café last summer, but had trouble finding a good location right away. 

“It’s really hard to find a place. Especially downtown,” Lena said. 

They secured their shop in December of 2019, meaning they had one month to prepare everything. Learning the rules and regulations for running a business in Charlottetown was challenging at first, but the final result paid off. 

Dylan Nguyen, 8, digs into a bowl of bingsu at Galaxy Café & Bingsu in Charlottetown on Jan. 18. His parents, Thin and Lan, own the store. - Daniel Brown
Dylan Nguyen, 8, digs into a bowl of bingsu at Galaxy Café & Bingsu in Charlottetown on Jan. 18. His parents, Thin and Lan, own the store. - Daniel Brown

 

The café can seat about 20 people, and on opening day it was packed with customers coming and going, many being members of P.E.I.’s Vietnamese community. In the middle of the café is a large table to sit around, as the Nguyen’s want it to be a social and family-friendly environment, Ha said. 

“It’s a place to chill.” 

Now that bingsu is available on P.E.I., she said it could end up being a great treat for downtown Charlottetown to cool off this summer. 

“In the summertime we’re going to stretch our hours,” Ha said. “If it’s really successful, (we) might consider opening a second location.” 


Galaxy Café’s selection of bingsu flavours are named after some of the solar system’s stars and planets. These include: 

  • Sun – Mango and dried cranberry 
  • Earth – Matcha Powder, red bean, almond, and condensed milk 
  • Mars – Strawberry flavoured 
  • Jupiter – Pearl and brown sugar syrup 
  • Uranus – Blueberry flavoured 
  • Mercury – Cocoa powder and chocolate sauce 

Most of these flavours also include almonds, whipped cream and vanilla ice cream. Galaxy Café may expand its menu to include flavours for all the planets in the solar system, Ha said. 


Twitter.com/dnlbrown95 

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