Maybe Big Bang were not referencing bread in their smash hit “Bang Bang Bang”, but with the Korean word sounding the same, it was worth a shot.
For the last six weeks, more bread is probably been baked at home than ever before. There has been a shortage of small bags of flour, which means that the moment that they reach store shelves, they are snatched up. Banana bread, wholemeal bread, white bread…possibly even Korean bread.
Bread in Korea is somewhat different from that found in the UK; namely, it is somewhat sweet, and always soft. The crusty rim that Brits consider an important part of sourdough or baguette is, in fact, a sign of staleness in the East. The texture is most similar to that of a brioche, but while European bread types typically have a low fat content, this is much more prevalent in Korean types. Loaves of bread are also filled with a variety of tantalising fillings (chestnuts, red bean paste and chocolate amongst other things such as squid and curry), and often aesthetically pleasing. Check out this “starry night” bread from Bear’s Den bakery in Hongdae, which is designed to match the Vincent Van Gough painting of the same name:
Bread emerged into the Korean market in the 1980s, and since then, many large bakery chains such as Paris Baguette, Tous Les Jours and Jean Boulangerie (hand-on-heart-phenomenal) can be found on the streets. These bakeries may offer hundreds of different varieties of bread, and may change their offerings daily; be sure to check back frequently!
However, unlike the Brits, where toast is considered a breakfast staple, it is still not a fundamental part of daily diets. Instead, it is considered a ‘treat food’, or something to share with friends. The growth in the bread market occurred simultaneously with the emergence of coffee shops, and the focus on socialisation may be due to this. With homes being built close together, and one household consisting of multiple generations, inviting friends home can be inconvenient and troublesome. Cafes and bakeries, therefore, provided cheap, useful opportunities for individuals to come together and socialise without spending large amounts of money on alcohol, karaoke or dinners.
It is clearly an industry that extends far beyond the food that it serves. Bread has become a sign of friendship and leisure, extending from the Western connotations of livelihood and sustenance.