I don't think I ever would have discovered this wonderful Korean street food—egg bread or Gyeran Bbang—had it not been for my grandmother. Not that she was a particularly adventurous cook who delighted in serving us up exotic foods from around the world. Quite the contrary, actually. There are really only two things I ever remember her making. Turkey and brisket. Every. Single. Time. Turkey and brisket. No surprises at Nan's house, that's for sure. No, the reason my grandmother is responsible for my discovery of Gyeran Bbang is because, throughout her long life, as far back as I can remember, she was a world traveler. And after she died in 2009, two months shy of her 100th birthday, I found her last passport while we were going through her things. I've never seen a passport like it, stuffed with extra pages so that all of her visas would fit. She was a pretty amazing person, my grandmother, and I miss her every day, so I decided I wanted to celebrate her life by going through that passport and baking something that represented each country she had visited (and tell you a little bit about her while I'm at it). Travels with Sylvia.
It's a pretty extensive list of countries—and keep in mind this is just from her last passport—I couldn't even begin to guess how many other countries she visited in her lifetime: Australia, Brazil, Cambodia, Chile, China, Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, England, Ghana, Greece, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Korea, Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, New Zealand, Oman, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Pitcairn Island, Poland, Tanzania, Thailand, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe, most of which she visited more than once. My original idea was to bake a bread from each country, but I'm not sure if some of them actually have a representative bread, so it'll be some national dish at least, if not a bread. (Some countries do have me worried though. Pitcairn Island? Breadfruit? Something left over from the Bounty mutineers maybe? Help!)
So. First stop (I'm going in no particular order here): Korea. The one bread that came up over and over again in my searches was this. Egg bread, or gyeran bbang. Which means…drumroll please…egg bread. And which is to Korea, apparently, what soft pretzels are to New York, the quintessential street snack. I can definitely see why. It fits easily in the hand, it hits all the right hunger-quelling notes, and it tastes gosh-darn good. At its most basic, it's batter with an egg on top baked in a muffin-ish tin (oval tins seem to be the go-to but I don't have one…yet), resulting in a bread that's light and fluffy, almost like a pancake, and slightly sweet. Sometimes you'll see this as a kind of sandwich—batter on top and bottom, egg in the middle—but most of the gyeran bbang I stumbled on were like this on, batter on bottom, egg on top. And the possibilities for add-ins are endless, with ham and cheese being especially popular. That's what I went for because, well…ham. And cheese and I are likethis.
Simply put, I. Love. Korean egg bread. It's so quick and easy to make, it could easily be something you can whip up on the spur of the moment, especially since you most likely have all of the ingredients on hand. It was fantastic warm from the oven, but leftovers reheated very nicely (25 seconds in the microwave) and made for a very satisfying and sustaining day starter that kept me happy until it was time for a late lunch. I can definitely see why it's the ubiquitous Korean street snack. Pocket food!
Good start on our travels, don't you think? Nan would approve and like the good Jewish grandmother she was, she'd tell you to "Eat! Have another! Are you sure you don't want one more? You're looking a little weak from hunger…"
So where to next? I'd love to hear your suggestions, especially if you've visited any of the countries on the list. And I'd love to hear your amazing and funny grandma stories, too, because cynical, snarky me gets all warm and fuzzy thinking about grandmas. Here, have an egg bread. You look hungry…
Korean Egg Bread (Gyeran Bbang)
- 2/3 cup self-rising flour
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1 large egg (for batter)
- 1/3 cup milk
- 1/3 cup (75g) melted butter
- 1/4 tsp natural vanilla extract
- 6 eggs (to top each bread) *see Notes
- Diced ham
- Grated cheese
- Minced parsley
- Hot sauce (that's for you, Chris)
- Whatever your imagination desires
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Use oil spray or butter to lightly coat the cups of a jumbo (6 hole) muffin pan.
- Add the flour, sugar and salt to a large bowl and mix together.
- In a small bowl, combine the egg, milk, butter and vanilla extract and whisk together.
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry and whisk until well mixed.
- Divide the batter evenly among the 6 wells of the muffin pan.
- Gently break an egg on top of the batter in each well.
- Season and top as desired (I used flaked sea salt, diced Canadian bacon, cheddar cheese and minced parsley).
- Bake for about 25 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted into the batter comes out clean.
- Cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack. The egg breads are best eaten the same day, warm from the oven, but can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container and reheated the next day.
Recipe source: My Korean Kitchen
I'm going to sing the praises of pasture-raised eggs. A few months ago, I was listening to the audiobook of Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma. It's a wonderfully entertaining and informative book all around but I was particularly fascinated by the section on Joel Salatin and Polyface Farms and even more particularly, by the description of Salatin's pasture-raised eggs. I normally buy only organic, cage-free eggs (although Pollan's book is pretty eye-opening about what this means) but I was very interested in trying pasture-raised, although not having any farms nearby (to my knowledge) I didn't hold out much hope of obtaining any. Then suddenly, they started appearing in some local stores and I grabbed a carton. The difference, to put it mildly, is amazing and it's obvious even in the crappy iPhone pic I snapped one morning. Visually, the white is yellowish and much more viscous, not pale and watery like the organic egg. And the yolk! Oh that yolk. Standing proud and tall and glowing like a mini orange sun. As for taste, well, they just taste…eggier. Like an egg is supposed to taste. There's a definite difference and I'm sold. Now, I'll be honest here. They're more expensive as organic eggs and nearly twice as much as standard eggs. There are two brands that I've found locally, Carol's Eggs and Vital Farms, and I try to buy them when they're on sale. I don't use them for any old thing, not for egg washes or binders or things like that, but when eggs are front-and-center, as they are in EGG BREAD, then yeah. Why not the best?
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