Seoul’s Bakery Scene Is Truly Next Level

Of all the foods my mama matured eating in Seoul, it wasn’t kalguksu (knife-cut noodle soup), ddukbokki (stir-fried rice cakes), or Pyeongyang naengmyeon (icy buckwheat noodles from North Korea) she cherished the most. It was bread.

After high school was out for the day, she and her girlfriends would amble to Taegeukdang Bakery, where the warm fragrance of freshly-baked ppang (bread) perked up their noses even from blocks away.

” I loved that goo soo han (earthy, savory-sweet) smell,” she remembers. Opened in 1946, a year after Korean self-reliance from Japan’s harsh 35-year occupation, Taegeukdang remains Seoul’s oldest– numerous workers are lifers, consisting of Kim Young-Il, who started back in 1968– and most iconic bakery, adored for its signature ice cream-filled Monaka and red bean-filled buns.
It may come as a surprise to outsiders, but modest, independently-owned bakeshops have been cornerstones of Seoul’s cooking map for years. Believed to be very first presented to the country by European missionaries in the late 19th century and more typically delighted in after Korea’s freedom– when Japanese bakers left their stores and sold off devices to residents– bread and other baked items are staples in numerous Seoulites’ diets today.
Taegeukdang, Hyoja, a Seochon area I often visited together with my grandmother for its wispy uyu sikppang (milk bread), and other old-school facilities still specialize in timeless products preferred by my moms and dads’ and grandparents’ generations, a wave of notable newbies is breaking complimentary from custom and moving what modern-day bakeshops and their offerings can look, odor, and even taste like. Here are some of the bakeshops you can’t miss out on.
Cafe Onion
For experimental pastries like squid-ink croissants
At the heart of this movement is Nudake, a dessert concept begun by the trendy Korean eyewear line Gentle Monster. Following the instant success of its early 2021 launch at Gangnam’s advanced retail hub Haus Dosan, Nudake revealed its first standalone area in the fashionable Seongsu community last summer season.
Upon getting in the stark concrete structure emblazoned with a cherry-red square, I right away comprehended the brand’s values. Eschewing the cozy ambiance preferred by the majority of if its counterparts, Nudake leans heavily into the dark, moody, and enigmatic. The interiors are dimly lit and bare, conserve for 3 huge black round tables taking spotlight. On them, a cornucopia of delights carefully displayed like museum artifacts waits for.

Among the most popular products are the Peak Cake, a pull-apart ring of squid-ink croissants surrounding a matcha cream center in a dirty Slimer-green shade, and Fog Cake, a black-white ombre confection filled with fluffy sponge cake, black olive bits, and cheddar-flavored cream cheese. I was particularly charmed by the tiny sliders layered with sliced cheese and pickles, and thumbnail-sized micro croissants.
For beautiful cakes in a restored hanok
Another brand worth taking notice of, Cafe Onion has numerous locations but Cafe Onion Anguk should top your list. While it also sells captivating creations such as the Pandoro, an Italian-inspired and mountain-shaped cake heaped with powdered sugar, it’s the spectacular setting that sets itself apart.

Housed in an adoringly restored hanok, a traditional wood home promoted throughout the Joseon dynasty, Cafe Onion Anguk encourages you to slow down, mingle, and snack right on the floor. (Be courteous and take your shoes off in advance.).

For trendy (however outstanding) bagels.
A pattern that seemed to emerge out of thin air, bagels are all over nowadays. Opened in 2015 in Gangnam, Wayne’s Bagels by Eric Kim, who learned the craft in Montreal as a young adult, concentrates on Montreal’s signature sweet and thick versions. Woman-owned SF Bagels in Yeonnam-dong is a snug take-out joint ending up crispy sourdough bagels without added sugar and yeast. And for staunch bagel purists, Sinsa-dong’s Lots O Bagels– the first area is in Queens, and is coincidentally Korean-owned– sticks to New York custom by hand-shaping, boiling, and baking their doughy discs.

For viral deals with in a kitschy setting.
The area dominating Seoulites’ social media feeds is the peculiarly called and kitschy knick knack-filled– imagine Princess Diana portraits and British flags– London Bagel Museum in Jongno-gu. As for the bagels, they resemble North American ones with their round shape, center holes, and glossy crusts, however that’s where the similarities end. Smaller sized in size with a soft, fluffy texture and distinct sweet-savory profile, they are available in flavors like potato cheese, fig, and dark chocolate.
In spite of getting there at 8 in the morning, when London Bagel Museum opens, there was a long line snaking down the block. After a lot of patience and some friendly chit-chat with other starving customers, I got my hands on the very popular spring onion pretzel bagel. Similar to Roman maritozzi, sweet buns tidily swiped with whipped cream, the very first bite left me perplexed. It was softer than I expected– much sweeter, too. Instead of being pleasingly smooth and tasty like plain cream cheese, the filling was light-as-air, sweet, and salty.

After some more considered chewing, things started clicking together. I realized that the spring onion pretzel bagel is everything about the producing the ideal bite– a sum much more enjoyable than its specific parts, blissfully free from what Westerners believe an authentic bagel must be.

This may not make good sense to everyone, not to mention neatly fit into a familiar category, but that’s not the point of this bagel and other baked items popular in Seoul nowadays. Because while these items might look different from the variations my mama and outsiders grew up with, nobody can argue they do what bread has always done all over the world: be a deep source of convenience and enjoyment.

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