Post #9 – Recently I learned that White Day, celebrated on March 14, is a Japanese afterthought to Valentine’s Day that has eventually spread to neighboring countries, including South Korea.  A fairly new celebration, it is, as all of its kind, a day of commerce and merchandising.

Couple date at a public event - both wearing little red hearts to show their commitment to eachother, Busan, South Korea
Couple date at a public event – both wearing little red hearts, Busan, South Korea. White Day is the perfect day to show their commitment to each other.

Valentine’s in Japan and Korea supposedly is the day ladies and girls make presents to their gents and oppas, unlike in the US where mainly the man surpirses the woman.  It is just like a ‘ladies dance’ or choice, so the ladies can show who they like.  I wish there would have been something like that when I was in high school.  All those unfulfilled waits and wants, lol. Oh, we all do grow up in the end, don’t we?

Beautiful flower display, South Korea
Beautiful flower display, South Korea
Green tea ice cream, Seoul, South Korea
Ice cream is a staple in Korean buffets, with green tea and red beans being some of the favorite flavors

So, a month after the girl made her choice and presented him with a gift, the oppa has to respond in kindness on White Day and provide something nice, preferably white, and more significant than what he has received in the first place, be it sweets, flowers, cute toys, and so on.  Now, that is an attempt at ‘equality’, or maybe just an attempt at having one more reason to spend.

Korea has a long tradition of making sweets, so the choices are spectacular.  Since I don’t understand the language and I can’t read it either, I just went on a hunt for sweets making my choices based on the way they look…or by reading the English ‘subtitle’.  The variety is overwhelming, and all are just so pretty.  There are entire stores just dedicated to traditional Korean sweets.  Ingredients are exceptional, to say the least: chestnuts, sweet potatoes, peanuts, plums, pears, persimmons, cinnamon, green tea, ginger, lots of rice and honey, and many others I don’t know how to pronounce.

Coffee Shop - Seoul, Cheongdamdong
Artsy coffee shops can be found in abundance all over Seoul. Here is an establishment in the upscale are of Cheongdamdong, Gangnam
Traditional sweets made and served at the museum coffee shop - Cultural Center near the Blue House (Korea's White House)
Traditional sweets made and served at the museum coffee shop – Cultural Center near the Blue House (Korea’s White House)
Traditional honey string pastry Kkultarae made of dough that is stretched repeatedly until it turns into very thin fibers.
Traditional honey string pastry Kkultarae made of dough that is stretched repeatedly until it turns into very thin fibers.

The upscale department stores I visited also have bakery sections, plus western and traditional Korean sweets departments.  These are sometimes so lavish that you think yourself at Harrod’s.  You will rarely see photos of these places in guidebooks, since they might not be what is considered the most typical and representative of South Korea, although these discrepancies make a visit to Seoul or Busan so exciting.  You can in one day go from sampling some bug-looking creatures on the street, to sipping lattés and enjoying a made-to-perfection croissant or a Laduree macaroon just like in Paris.

BAKE Chese Tarts, very popular baked goods in South Korea, perfect for White Day
BAKE Chese Tarts, very popular baked goods in South Korea – a perfect gift for White Day

There is one particular bakery that makes cheese tarts, called BAKE Cheese Tarts.  These sell for about 14 dollars for half a dozen, and there is a maximum of 6-12 you can buy at one time.  The line to purchase them extends well around the proverbial block, and when they are out, rien-ne-va-plus.  I noticed that most food items containing cheese cost more, and international cheeses from Italy, France and so on, are rather expensive, although available.

Paris Baguette Bakery, one of South Korea's most popular breakfast place
Paris Baguette Bakery, one of South Korea’s most popular breakfast places

One of my favorite places is the bakery and coffee house Paris Baguette, because of its convenience.  You will find sometimes two of them on the same street or block.  There are so, so many; they open early and stay open late.  Their assortment is internationally inspired, the croissants are perfect, and they are moderately/low priced.  Well, all coffee houses in Korea are cool.  More about this subject of major importance to Koreans, next…

Meanwhile, Happy White Day to everyone!

South Korea, Joseon
Traditionally, sweets were used in Korea to show off a family’s wealth and status

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“A long and sinuous Silk Road unites all our cultures, a road full of colors, hardships, and hopes. If given the chance to travel this road over and over again, overlapping images would melt into a warm human fabric, full of labor, sweat and dreams. This fabric inspires my work. Its resilience is my hope for a common road into a harmonious future.” Ellie Perla

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