Valentine’s Day at Sung Sim Dang

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Heart-shaped treats at Sung Sim Dang

If you have lived in Korea long enough then you might have noticed that concept of Valentine’s Day is slightly different here.  In Canada, a couple may exchange gifts or cards over a romantic dinner on Valentine’s Day.  But here in Korea, February 14th is the day that girls present a gift of chocolate to boys as to confess their love.  Same goes for married couples as well – instead of exchanging, it is more likely that only women provide gifts to their loved ones on Valentine’s Day.  On the other hand, men get to give out candies on March 14th which is called a “White Day”.

Although the method of celebration may differ, Valentine’s Day in Korea is filled with love just like everywhere else on the globe.  I met an old friend from high school and we decided to visit downtown Daejeon where we used to hang out more than ten years ago.  The streets were filled with young people and flowers and chocolates were being sold on portable displays.  Love was sure in the air on Munhwaeui Geori (문화의거리: Streets of Culture) at Eunhaeng-dong.  My friend who lives in Washington D.C. wanted to revisit the infamous boulangerie Sung Sim Dang (성심당) and that is where we went for dinner.  The historic bread shop is so popular that it is considered one of the top three bakeries in South Korea.

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Complimentary brownies for lonely souls

Upstairs is a cafeteria/diner called “Terrace Kitchen” also operated by Sung Sim Dang.  The westernized restaurant’s menu includes pasta, curry, rice pilaf and pork cutlet for a very cheap price.  As we sat down, a staff approached us with a wooden tray of individually wrapped mini brownies.  “As a courtesy of Sung Sim Dang, we are giving away free brownies to customers without a date on Valentine’s Day”, he said.  For a moment, my friend and I did not understand what he meant.  Then soon we burst into laughter.

We indeed noticed that there were many tables with just girls or just boys.  I don’t mind being a single on a Valentine’s Day but it did feel kind of weird to receive a cheer-up gift for not having a date.  Well, we both enjoyed the free brownies so I guess that was a plus.

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My friend has never tasted the famous “fried soboro” so we went downstairs to grab one.  As always, Sung Sim Dang is packed with locals and tourists.  The bread shop has always been popular but not as this much when I first visited more than ten years ago.  The bakery probably started to attract global attention after being listed on Michelin Guide in 2011.  All in all, the place is certainly a must-visit attraction for anyone visiting the city of Daejeon.

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