I’m starting to miss the Motherland a little bit less, now that almost a month has passed. We’re now falling back into our routine, getting ready for the holiday season, and keeping ourselves busy by planning our next few trips (to have something to look forward to get through the dreary winter months). But no matter how much time has passed and no matter how hard I try to forget — and I can’t believe I’m even admitting this — I cannot, and perhaps a part of me will not, forget the glorious perfection that is Paris Baguette. Of all the things that we experienced, saw, ate… it’s this damn franchise pastry shop that has been longing so badly to be back in Seoul.
So what exactly is Paris Baguette? It’s part of an international food and food services company based in Korea. There are almost 3,000 Paris Baguette locations in Korea alone, and some lucky cities in the States have locations. It’s literally everywhere we went in Korea; it’s almost like Starbucks in that you’re never too far away from a store.
As much as it’s a franchise that cranks out mass-produced pastries, those aforementioned mass-produced pastries are a perfect match to my taste buds. I can’t find anything like it back home, save for T&T Market that has some good variety of sweet buns. But seriously… nothing even compares. NOTHING. NOTHING I TELL YOU.
The first few days, we stayed in the Gangnam area and our rental condo just happened to be a couple of blocks away from a Paris Baguette. Look at the inviting “ajusshi” (older man) holding out a seasonal pastry made with apples. How can you NOT go in? [Note, this is a store in a different suburb, but they all have the same signage and cool sliding door that only opens when you press the ‘open’ button].
Some more shots of the above location:
The concept is pretty simple – grab a tray, try to resist temptation to pick up one of everything onto said tray, and then get your bounty wrapped up at the counter. The first morning we went, the variety was so overwhelming that we made at least 20 laps around the area surveying what was available. Good thing the place was really quiet that particular morning, otherwise we’d get stank-eyed for not adhering to the Korean mindset of “hurry hurry” (which I’ll touch on in later posts).
Trying to be as sensible as possible, we chose only 3 items.
First, a savoury offering, filled with sausage and topped with a mixture of corn, peas, cheese, and what I’m guessing to be a tomato sauce. With that description you might be thinking, “blech”, but alas I’m not doing it sufficient justice. Sure, the combination is a bit weird, but the subtle sweetness from the corn and sausage and the savoury cheese and tomato sauce work so well together. Encased in what I can only imagine is bread made with the tears of angels, it’s an absolute delight.
Next up we have this churro-looking fried item that is made with sweet glutinous rice flour. Dusted in sugar, it had a very pleasant chewy texture and it wasn’t too sweet. The thing about doughnut sticks made with glutinous rice flour is that they are denser and much chewier in texture. A definite winner for me.
And now we have what I can only describe as the single best pastry-type thing I’ve ever, ever, EVER tasted in my life. I don’t know if anything can top this. When Mark picked this up, neither of us had any idea what this was (I don’t think the description card was up). His logic was that they brought out a tray of these, freshly made, so they must be a top seller (since the spot they occupied was empty when we first arrived). Well, we can see why this goes so fast. This thing has everything – crispy, crunchy, sweet, savoury, chewy. Inside, a lovely filling of chicken curry that was both sweet and savoury. I swear our eyes lit up when we bit into this for the first time.
I probably could’ve eaten at least a dozen on the spot, but in the spirit of being sensible, we resisted temptation and went on our day.
We visited a Paris Baguette almost every day of our trip. They didn’t always have the curry bun available, but the other items we tried were all so good. Not only that, the prices were incredibly cheap – I think we paid less than $5 for the three pastries on the first morning.
My biggest regret is that I didn’t buy a whole bag of pastries to bring back with me. I think about these pastries everyday. I kid you not. It might be a sad thing to mourn, but there’s something about how Koreans make pastries that’s just so special and unique.
Until next time, Paris Baguette… I shall keep you and your curry bun in my heart.