The Foodosophy of Food Gift Giving


This post is another reflection from my summer travels to Asia and in particular the two weeks I spent in South Korea.

The tradition of bringing back some local treats and gifts when one travels in an Asian country, especially when you have been to a more rural area and the city folk you left behind want to know what’s there, is one that I enjoy.  Especially when I’m one of those who are stuck in the rat race and urban jungle, and get to taste some goodies brought back from someone’s travels.  On this particular trip, it was the other way around, as I decided to purchase some sweet snacks that were reputed to be the best representation of what Gyeongju has, and I was told, would be appreciated by the Seoulites who would be on the receiving end of my generosity.

As with many food gifts, packaging is key, especially when one is challenged by a large display full of various types.  As people “eat with their eyes”, I can see why so much effort is spent on making the containers, boxes, etc. as appealing as possible and thus help boost sales.  Convenience for me is often key (especially when I’m traveling by air) and so a slim package such as the one above is much favored.  This particular pair of items was bought in a gift shop just before departing Gyeongju city.  A last stop kind of place to get your fill of this resort area before returning to the more populous (and non-touristy) places around the peninsula.

Inside were a bunch of  small round, pancake-like discs that was infused with a green tea flavor and sandwiching a smear of a sweet red bean paste.  The texture of the pancakes was delicately soft and had some springy chewiness to them, despite being so thin.  Individually wrapped (more for protection from the local humidity), it was easy to scarf down several of these.  I even bought a box for myself and ate some in the drive back in air conditioned comfort.

Hwangnam bread (Hwangnam bbang) – is usually consumed as a late morning/afternoon snack and goes well with say tea or coffee.  A more crusty, pastry crust formed a thicker barrier to the sweet red bean paste inside these ones.  The markings on the top, a sunburst type of image, is a distinguishing feature of these apparently.  The golden exterior showed they were baked nicely.

I think I’ve seen similar kinds of pastries in the local Chinese bakeries in Vancouver, so I assume this is kind of a pan-Asian thing.

No skimping on the filling.  These were packed heartily.  And thus made eating them more filling than the thinner ones mentioned above.  I enjoyed them just the same though.

The folks I presented these too were quick to express their delight at the sight of these gifts.  🙂

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