Winter in Korea is filled with a variety of warm snacks, and one of the most beloved among Koreans is Bungeoppang.
RM, a member of BTS, made headlines recently with his surprising reaction to the price of Bungeoppang. When fans brought up the topic, RM exclaimed, "1,000 won for each Bungeoppang? You're crossing the line," covering his mouth and eliciting laughter. He also expressed regret, stating, "There are places where I don't carry cash; I only accept cash."
Bungeoppang, enjoyed by people of all ages in Korea, gained additional attention when the superstar commented on its price increase.
This blog will delve into the history, characteristics, and related stories of Bungeoppang in Korea.
Bungeoppang is a street food that localized after the introduction of the Japanese Taiyaki to Korea.
At the end of the 19th century, "Taiyaki," originating from a shop called "浪" in Azabujuban (麻布十番), Tokyo, marked the beginning of Bungeoppang. While the exact date of Taiyaki's introduction to Korea remains unclear, it is believed that the Taiyaki production technique, popular in Japan around the 1930s, entered Japanese colonial-era Joseon and evolved with the use of flour paste.
Bungeoppang began gaining popularity in the 1950s to 1960s, following Korea's liberation from Japan's colonial rule, coinciding with a significant influx of flour imported from the United States through post-war aid.
Style of Liver Transplantation" in the Maeil Business Newspaper in 1981 mentioned the increasing popularity of "Full bread," formerly known as chrysanthemum bread, cultural bread, and Bungeoppang, by the 1980s.
Unlike Japan's Taiyaki, which resembles a sea bream, Bungeoppang took on the shape of a crucian carp, a fish familiar to Koreans. Additionally, the dough was adjusted to be crispy and savory, catering to Korean tastes with a slight reduction in sweetness. Smaller in size and lower in cost than Taiyaki, Bungeoppang gained popularity in Korea for its accessibility.
Predominantly sold at street stalls, Bungeoppang might be available at discounted prices towards the end of business hours. While the price varies slightly by region, it is commonly sold at 1,000 won for two pieces. The preparation involves pouring a mixture of flour and margarine into a mold, adding red beans, and baking over high heat. Despite its simple recipe, each store offers a distinct flavor due to subtle differences in dough, red beans, and baking duration.
Over time, Bungeoppang has evolved with additional ingredients such as sweet potatoes, chou paste, chocolate, cheese, curry, pizza seasoning, and kimchi, diversifying into variations like golden carp bread, black rice carp bread, purple sweet potato Bungeoppang, and pizza Bungeoppang.
Before the 2010s, the price of Bungeoppang was typically 3-4 pieces for 1,000 won. However, as of 2023, this pricing structure has become outdated. Bungeoppang is now often sold in three chou paste flavors for 2,000 won and two red bean flavors for 1,000 won.
In some cases, establishments sell them for 1,000 won each. This shift has led to a decline in consumer trust and a tendency to avoid alternative food options. With increased income in Korea, larger, high-end Bungeoppang resembling Taiyaki in Japan, complete with various toppings, is becoming more prevalent, with some being sold in cafes rather than traditional food stalls.
As popular as Bungeoppang is in Korea, there are related psychological tests. A psychological test proposes identifying one's personality based on how Bungeoppang is eaten, either from the head, tail, center, or by cutting. However, with only four options, namely "head," "tail," "eat from the center," and "cut and eat," the accuracy of this test is not guaranteed.
While the most common ways to eat Bungeoppang align with these four options, variations exist, such as people who suck the red beans, consume the gills, or eat it in one bite. Some prefer the bite-sized mini Bungeoppang, while others consume the regular size in a single bite.
Apart from psychological tests, typical Bungeoppang features less red bean filling at the tail, with the stuffing concentrated from the head to the body. This allows individuals to enjoy Bungeoppang in order of taste, depending on whether they prefer the pure bread part without red bean or the part with ample red bean filling.
In an alternative perspective, the tail's unique shape results in a narrow area and thin thickness due to the absence of red beans, providing a strong, crispy texture. Over time, the body becomes soggy, and the tail hardens, prompting some to savor the crispy taste by eating the tail first.
Winter in Korea offers a delightful array of snacks, with Bungeoppang standing out for its unique shape and diverse flavors. RM's experience, as highlighted in the introduction, exemplifies the distinctiveness and popularity of Bungeoppang. If you find yourself in Korea during the winter, I highly recommend trying this special snack!
Exploring the History, Features, and Psychological Tests Behind Bungeoppang, the Korean Winter Snack that Surprised RM”
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