What do I mean by that? Well, mainly that things aren't done here like they are back home. For example, often you will order a ham and cheese sandwich in a restaurant and get served a ham, cheese and jam sandwich. One time at the restaurant chain "Bear Mountain" I ordered chicken quesadillas and they were served with sweetened whipped cream [like you might use as a dessert topping] of course I didn't expect this or realize it until I had spread it over my meal and thus ruined the entire thing. I have learned that even when things look right and are presented in the way you are used they still might not be correct.
I have been thinking about this in regards to food lately. Maybe because I have a terrible cold and have had for weeks now - nothing smells or tastes good to me. This got me thinking about the fact that in Korea nothing smells good. You can walk by a fried chicken shop or a bakery and smell nothing. I'm not sure if it is the pollution or what. But, it sure is different from back home. When I lived in Moncton, New Brunswick and attended Moncton High School there was a bakery about 6 blocks away and the smell used to waft in - especially in the fall and spring when the windows were open. The odour used to practically drive us to distraction. I can't speak for anyone else, but I was rendered like one of Pablov's dogs with my salvating. It was the most fragrant and delicious smell imaginable.
This got me thinking about the fact that Korean people say they don't like sweets. What I am wondering is if that is true. Is it that Korean people don't like sweets or that they don't like that they make here and call "sweets" cause quite frankly I don't like them either. They look like real cakes and are decorated beautifully but they are mostly puffed air and sometimes some sweetened cream. I have never had a cake here [not even for someone's birthday] that actually tasted like a cake. They don't use icing sugar or frostening on cakes or cinnamin buns. The cake is always a light sponge-like cake. I've never had a confetti cake or a cherry loaf or even a real chocolate cake. I'm not sure if it is because it is difficult to find the necessary ingredients [real cocoa powder is very hard to find] and from the taste of the "chocolate cakes" I've tried from bakeries they used cocoa mix [cocoa that has been cut with sugar and milk powder and is ready to make a cup of hot cocoa] or if they just don't know the difference.
A picture of a normal Korean bakery and the delicious "looking cakes". If only they tasted even 25% as good as they look....
Apparently, I am not the only one to dislike Korean bakeries. Last weekend I went to visit my friend "Ray" in Ulsan. And, I picked up a copy of the November issue of the "Ulsan Pear" an English magazine about living in Ulsan. In it there was an article about "Stohrer Bakery". The article by Jim Saunders starts like this, "Bakeries in Korea seem to be a rather hit-and-miss affair. A casual glance around your local Paris Baguette or equivalent reveals a lacklustre number of tasty looking goods on offer that also seem to contain a strange mix of fillings (sweet potato anyone?). And when an unsuspecting pastery that looks really good spills bean paste into your mouth it can rather darken the day."
The article goes on to take about a bakery in Ulsan called the "Stohrer Bakery" owned and operated by Mr. Son Su Dae who gained experience in Japan and France. It continues to say that although expensive the quality is great and it does seem to attract a upper class clientele. This piqued my interest. And, adds to my hypothesis that Koreans would actually like "Western food" if it were actually prepared and served correctly here.
I convinced "Ray" to join me on my quest to find this bakery. Truthfully, it didn't take much persuading. "Ray" and a few of his friends had tried to find the bakery a few weeks before without success and I think "Ray" was just curious to see how I would go about trying to find it since I have only been to Ulsan a handful of times and had always managed to get lost while there. But, knowing my persistence he knew it would be interesting to watch. The fact that the bakery was difficult to find just made me more determined than ever to find it. That's just the kind of girl I am. I guess you could say I like a challenge. Whenever, life gets hard and frustrating here in Korea I just pretend I am on "The Amazing Race" and that this is a "roadblock" [a task that only one player can perform before the team can move on].
A picture of the tarts in the Stohrer Bakery. They were delicious. I bought a plum one.
Needless, to say we found the bakery and as promised it was quite expensive and the quality was great! I couldn't be more pleased. I should confess that I used the phone number of the bakery and recruited a Korean University Student to call and get me directions. And, later I talked to a Korean guy and showed him the directions and got him to point me in the right direction.
It was an interesting quest and the bakery treats were a delicious reward.
The most delicious treat at the bakery were the chocolates. They were very expensive at 1,300 won [over $1.30 Canadian] a piece but they were exceptional! Yummm... My mouth waters just thinking about them.
**One note of interest: When the University Student called the bakery to get directions she told the person at the bakery that "Two foreigners were trying to find the bakery" and that she was calling for us to get directions. I've noticed that whenever I ask a Korean to help me they always say "wae-guk-in"["foreigner"] and somehow that is a pertinent part of the equation. I'm not sure why this is and why it matters.
A funny picture I took the other night of a lady taking her dog into the bakery with her. It's even funnier if you think about the fact that Korea is a country where men still eat dog meat especially in the summer to help improve their "stamina".