If there’s one thing there is no shortage of in Gwangju, it’s bakeries. While coffee and pork may take up a lot of commercial real estate, it’s hard to go too far before running into one of many shops that come with the promise of bread, cake, and other baked goods. The hard part, in my opinion, is finding a good bakery. Now, I’m not one to turn down a baguette or red bean bun from one of the more popular franchises, but when I’m hungry for good bread, there are only a few spots in the city that can satisfy my craving.
I feel like I should start by saying what my requirements for “good bread” are, especially since this is often a very subjective and personal topic. First off, I don’t like my bread sweet unless it’s meant to be sweet. I tend to prefer my carbs edging closer to savory and generally avoid the sugary stuff unless I’m in the mood for dessert. Second, I like my bread baked fresh and for the softness of the inside to balance well with a harder, richer crust. This preference can be a little harder to achieve, as good bread isn’t known for having the best shelf life. Due to circumstances, I have no choice but to go easier on this requirement. Finally, as much as I love the fancy stuff, my favorites will always be simple and to the point. Bread that has been jazzed up with fancy ingredients is always good, but I will always come back to the stuff that was most likely made with less than five ingredients, a fair amount of skill, and some time to let those simple flavors mature. Though finding a place that delivers on all of this can be a little difficult, the Yangin Bake Shop has provided a great pit stop on this journey.
Located in the still growing Yanglim-dong, this small, but popular bakery arrived as a bit of a surprise to everyone. Due to some advertising on social media, this place was popular before it even opened. I had actually attempted to visit shortly after learning about it, only to find that everything was gone. This wasn’t the first time this happened, as each visit after that left me feeling anxious whenever I saw empty shelves through those giant windows. Despite not always being able to get what I wanted, my many trips made it possible to sample a decent amount of what was available.
As this was a bakery in the middle of Gwangju, more Korean options containing red bean, roasted sesame seeds, and sweeter choices were to be expected. What I was pleasantly surprised to see were choices like ciabatta, baguettes, and even sourdough. For those seeking more flavor, there was no shortage of bread stuffed with cheese. While this was indeed a bakery, it was nice to see other options likes handmade chocolate and candy available for sale. There was also popcorn, milk tea, and random swag to represent the city of Gwangju. Though some of these items were indeed tempting, they appeared to have been made by other local businesses in and around the city. I chose to focus on the bread.
I ended up trying a lot of what I got on different days, mostly due to a combination of my weird schedule and the bakery’s tendency to sell out early. I also realized that it probably wasn’t ideal for me to eat so much bread in one day, so some of the stuff I purchased was consumed throughout the week. That being said, everything I got was quite nice. The first thing I tried was the Baguette, which came in two different sizes and two different prices. I opted for the smaller option, as it’s generally frowned upon to eat a loaf as long as my leg by myself in one sitting. Not only was this length of bread mildly savory and baked to perfection, but it was also cheaper than some of the franchises.
The Egg Bacon Bread I had was quite dense and eggy. I probably should have heated it up to soften it, but I was too busy being excited at the lack of sweetness with each bite. I only wish they would have used something other than processed sliced cheese on top, as I felt like it took away from an otherwise solid breakfast pastry. The Cheese Herb Bread was also a tasty, savory treat that packed quite a punch with the amount of garlic on it. It was like a softer take on cheesy garlic bread, but with a bunch of extra herbs in the mix.
The sweeter choices I got to try were also nice, offering interesting twists to separate them from the usual stuff. One of the Red Bean Buns I got, which looked like a take on hot cross buns, had red bean paste mixed seeds, adding a contrasting texture to the otherwise overly soft treat. The Chocolate Soboro, which was basically a firmer pastry that had been dipped in chocolate, was so much tastier than I imagined it would be. There was something addictive about the chocolate that was used. It left me regretting not purchasing a loaf of the Chocolate Bread, which seemed to be selling out quickly when I last went.
No matter when I went, I ended up walking away from the Yangin Bake Shop with something new and tasty. There are still so many choices I wish I could try, but will have to wait for future visits to actually give them a taste. That being said, the fact that this place is still popular is a pretty good sign that it has a lot of satisfied customers. Due to there being no places to sit or relax, this is definitely a place where you just go in, buy stuff, and leave. It’s definitely worth a visit, but try not to stock up like I did. As delicious as the bread here tastes the next day or even the day after, nothing really beats having it fresh on the day it was baked.
Address: 광주광역시 남구 양림동 103-15 (across the street from the Sajik Library)
Hours: 8:00AM to 9:00PM (closed Mondays)
Average Price Range: 800 to 5,500 for bread (loaves included)