Chocolate in Korea
You can see the version with pictures in this month's Eloquence Magazine.
The origin of Korean women giving gifts of chocolate to their boyfriends on Valentine’s Day has its roots in Japan. On February 14th, the girls would give gifts of handmade chocolates, (“giri choko,” which translates to “obligatory chocolate”), to their beloved . On March 14, which has been designated “White Day,” the men are to give their girlfriends “sanbai gneshi” or “triple return” of the chocolates given to them on the previous month.
Unlike the Japanese, Korean men give gifts of hard candy to their girlfriends on March 14th. Hard Candy! How unjust! Hard candy is not a fair exchange for chocolate. I believe this is why April 14th has been dubbed “Black Day” in Korea, because of all the girls disappointed with their trifle gifts of hard candy.
Guys, if you don’t want to wear black and eat jja-ja myeong alone on “Black Day,” I suggest you buy chocolates for your girlfriend. And ladies, do not settle for a “Hershey Kiss” or “ABC Chocolate”- demand the good stuff (because you’re worth it.) Here are some of the best artisan chocolate places that I have found in Seoul.
Choi Young-kyoung’s chocolate cafe in Gangnam has a whimsical edge- evidenced by the cute horse blinds covering her storefront. As soon as you step inside you’ll be wooed by the giant chocolate fountain and various chocolate memorabilia- my favorite being a photo of a man injecting himself with a chocolate bar. Obviously, this is a person that is obsessed with chocolate. Young-kyoung specializes in Italian chocolates and her dark chocolate bars are famed for their high cacao content. Some of her more adventurous truffles waltz with such intriguing ingredients such as orange peel, cognac, and balsamico. But wait, she also offers chocolate classes and there is cute upstairs parlor for sipping on a strong cup of Italian espresso.
Gangnam exit 7 take the first right. Go up the hill towards the Children’s Library.
Remember the scene in the movie “Chocolat” when the cankerous old woman takes a sip of hot chocolate and her whole demeanor and outlook on life changes? If not, you can relive this experience at Cacaoboom by drinking a cup of their “strong” hot chocolate. This velvety cup of zen is an epiphany- it’s like drinking Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.” And when that is finished I suggest truffles, truffles, truffles and pralines, pralines, pralines! Cacaoboom approaches chocolates with Belgian expertise and prides itself on using only the finest and freshest ingredients. A box of their pralines can warm the coldest of hearts and it would be wise to keep a box of their fresh truffles on hand- just in case you have a bad day.
Hongdae exit 4- see map on website.
Right next to Hangangin station exit 3 is the headquarters for the Paris Croissant, Paris Baguette empire. The stylish black building has an eye opening chandelier and inside is a cafe, bakery, patisserie, and chocolat store. The products inside Passion 5 seem like to be the harbinger of trends that will come to the Korean confectionary and bakery industry. The chocolates are unique with such exotic ingredients such as rose and earl grey tea. Passion 5’s chocolates are beautiful works of art and should be displayed rather than eaten- but alas, that is the sole purpose of a chocolat’s existence. The flavor of their truffles are complex, rich, and sophisticated- it is like a fine wine. It is very pleasurable to taste an entire box or two or three.
Hangangin station exit 3