🥖Bread is the staple food of the Western world. It is the most simple meal. Available anywhere and everywhere. Versatile and diverse. Bread can be sweet, savory, whole, sliced, toasted, sandwiched, baked into puddings, mushed into dumplings (#Semmelknödel), the crispy shell of fried chicken or cutlets, the crumbs of Hansel and Gretel’s trail before they get lost in the woods… (I shall stop here.) Yet, bread can be powerful on its own. Good bread does not need any toppings, no butter, jam or other enhancements. It is flavorful, nourishing and a pleasure to eat on its own, while consisting of only a few ingredients:
Flour, water, salt and the right baking method.
Having grown up in 🇩🇪Germany, where breads such as sourdough bread, whole grain bread, rye bread, have a long tradition, I think I can claim that I know what bread is.
But in 🇰🇷Korea, bread (bbang 빵) is not bread. 🥖=/= 🥖
🍞 Bread is no entire meal.
Bread is a snack.
Although they have eaten bready foods, such as pizza or bread, some Koreans insist that they haven’t had any food (bab 밥) during the entire day unless they have eaten rice (bab 밥).* 🤯
Korean bakery products often
👃smell irresistible and
But I wouldn’t call them “bread”. Maybe 🍰cake fits better. Or 🥐pastry. Because their bakery goods are almost always sweet.🍩 Even the plain toast, pizza breads and garlic bread contain added sugar. 😵
Don’t get me wrong – I am amazed by contemporary Korean baking! Not just is there cake aka “bread” flavored with curious local ingredients such as 🍵green tea (💚matcha), 🍠sweet potato or 🎃sweet pumpkin. Even the average modern bakery offers cakes and pastries which are skillfully crafted and aesthetically pleasing – regular German cakes and pastries appear rough and unrefined by comparison! 🤩 Modern Korean desserts, overall, are colorful, look extravagant and appear mouth-watering to anyone with a sweet tooth. 🤤
Anyways, my point is: “Korean bread” is not bread, it’s more like dessert.
Beside the sweetness, there is another major difference regarding the ingredients of bread: That is, even the plain toast types of bread contain butter, 🥚egg or other 🥛dairy products. So in case you follow a vegan diet, be aware that in most of the cases, bread or other bakery products at a regular bakery or cafe are not vegan. On top of that, I just recently found out that 🐖lard or shortening is oftentimes added to regular bakery (e.g. toast, cookies), as well… 😱
In bakeries, cafes, convenience stores or food stalls, finding a 🥪sandwich or a 🥗salad that doesn’t contain 🐖ham, 🥚mayonnaise, 🍳egg or 🧀cheese will be difficult! Don’t ask me why one of the basic ingredients in every Korean sandwiches seems to be ham… 😵 Unfortunately, asking for custom-made orders is possible only in rare cases, since most of the products are pre-made. 😔 By the way, even low quality 🧀cheeses available in Korea may contain 🐖pig lard, which means that many sandwiches, salads and even 🍕pizzas cannot be considered to be 100% vegan, vegetarian, kosher or halal…
Last but not least, another huge difference between Korean and Western bread culture is the time of bread. 🕗 If you walk into a Korean bakery in the morning hoping to get freshly baked bread for breakfast, chances are that you do not find it. Instead, there will presumably be leftovers from the previous day at a cheaper price, as well as types of fried dough, such as 🍩donuts and croquettes. I understand that preparing and baking bread takes considerable time and, unlike Western countries, many South Korean bakeries schedule their baked goods to be ready by noon or later in the afternoon. 🕜 Just be aware of this as you plan your day. And if you need bread for breakfast, maybe buying it in advance is an idea. 😉
After all, it seems that regular Western-style food is not what you may be used from your home country. Whatever reasons you may have – religious, health-wise, ethical, etc. – if it is important for you to avoid consuming certain things, then I recommend checking the labels (which hopefully exist) of each product individually.
Alternatively, look out for all vegan bakeries or vegan cafes, of which a few exist in Seoul. I will gradually post and share their location with you as I visit them. In the meantime, check out this Instagram page, where reviews will be uploaded first and at regular intervals.
*) I wonder whether people say this as a joke because of the pun, or whether they actually believe in this “logic”… 😶❓