One of my favorite Korean delicacies is none other than 1,000won a bundle Bungeoppang. It’s an instantly made pastry usually sold by snack vendors in winter times. ‘Bungeo’ in Korean means ‘Goldfish’. But fortunately bungeoppang is not made with goldfish as an ingredient, at least in most cases anyway. Instead, the pastry is made in shape of goldfish with sweet red bean paste inside. Today, most of these pastries are sold under the name of Ingeoppang, which means ‘Carp Pastry’. They shifted the shape of goldfish into carp since carp is more slim looking, reducing the overall ingredients needed for one pastry. But to this day, many Koreans still call it bungeoppang instead of ingeoppang since they are accustomed to that name. And as you may have guessed, the origin of bungeoppang goes back to Japan imitated from ‘Taiyaki’ which is basically a same thing.
When I came to Korea back in 2008, I could easily find a bungeoppang vendor that sells a pack of 4 bungeoppangs for 1,000won. A year later, 1,000won could only get me 3 bungeoppangs. I was slightly depressed by this not only because my financial status wasn’t up to the point of satisfaction (which means I was unemployed at the time), but because it also meant the price of everything else would rise as well. Food like ddeokbokki and bungeoppang are good benchmark products for determining Korea’s economy. I might be going too far calling them ‘benchmark’, but these are some of the most popular street food in Korea. And regular folks can be sensitive to their 1,000 pack of bungeoppang containing 1 less bungeoppang than last year.
Well, to be honest, bungeoppang isn’t as popularly enjoyed as ddeokbokki or even sundae. And it’s available mostly in winter times usually around residential areas. Due to this reason, many foreigners probably miss a chance to have this delicious pastry warmly baked right out of the iron during their stay in Korea. If you are reading this and haven’t had bungeoppang yet, you are in for a treat of your life. Well, I know building up your expectation like this can also bring a huge disappointment, but it’s just that good. I would always put bungeoppang above ddeokbokki for the king of Korean street food.
If you ask me why I put this much of emphasis on the importance of bungeoppang in Korea’s culinary culture, it’s because it was simply the most missed food I craved but couldn’t have back when I was in Canada, along with Jajangmyeon. It’s the most delightful treat one could have on the way home after a hard day’s work. There is nothing like having a bite of warmly baked bungeoppang in a cold winter day. But that’s my personal reason. It doesn’t necessarily mean bungeoppang should be the most popular food. But with so many varieties of street food out there today, the number of bungeoppang vendors are waning. Call me a bungeoppang advocate if you will, but I’m doing my part spreading the word out. Enjoy bungeoppang!