I don’t care what the clerks at Whole Foods say, fresh-baked bread is a blessing of civilization.
Here’s why buying fresh bread is awesome:
- You get to watch the bread being made
- It’s still warm when you get your hands on it
- It smells amazing
- It can be a morning ritual, just like coffee or tea, that becomes a meditative act
So many places we travel to are indelibly printed in our minds thanks to memories of buying that perfect bread in the morning (baguettes in Paris, pan de agua in Puerto Rico, arepas in Colombia, you get the idea).
Bringing home warm bread is guaranteed to increase approval ratings for your overall household management. It’s like being the guy who hands out free garlic knots at the Italian restaurant. Everyone loves you.
Before I lived in Orange County, I lived in LA for a few years. On the drive to San Diego, there was only one place to stop: Wholesome Choice Market in Irvine. It’s right off Culver Drive and the 405 and a chance to observe the Iranian population of Orange County in its natural habitat (It’s OK, I’m Iranian, I can say that).
Here, there’s cream-filled eclairs and zoolbia bamieh, pistachio ice cream in the most delicate wafer sandwiches, and an international food court, ready for you to mix cuisines to your liking–if you want to have orange chicken plus a plate of ghormeh sabzi, no one here is going to judge.
But all of that pales in insignificance when compared to the bread: sangak. Glorious, doughy but crunchy, lightly topped with sesame seeds, sangak is a traditional Iranian flatbread, under $3 a pop, and delivered in brown paper wrapping, still piping hot from the giant stainless steel oven it just emerged from.
Fresh Baked Bread in Orange County: Sangak at Wholesome Choice
The rules of Sangak when it’s busy at Wholesome Choice are strict: don’t cut the line, save spaces for friends, or try to order more than two pieces at a time. Probably because so many people did all of the above for a while, the rules are now enforced to keep order when there could be chaos. But outside of the typical rush hours, you can usually get your hands on hot sangak in just a few minutes.
If you think you’re demonstrating willpower by not sneaking a piece while checking out or on the drive home, you’re missing out on fresh-out-of-the-oven goodness! Do yourself a favor and grab a bite, it’s totally cheat day.
How to Eat Sangak
Eat it however you like! But if you need suggestions, here are a few favorites:
- Honey & butter (kareh asal): Take equal parts soft butter and honey and mix together, use as a spread.
- Jam & butter (kareh moraba): Take equal parts soft butter and your favorite jam (strawberry or cherry are particularly good here), use as a spread.
- Nutella & sliced bananas: Needs no explanation
- Feta cheese & cucumbers: An Iranian breakfast favorite
- Fresh mozzarella, marinara and basil: It’s the perfect pizza base.
- Yogurt: Dip it in plain yogurt, cucumber mint yogurt (mast khiar), or yogurt with dried shallots (mast musir).
How to Store Sangak
So maybe 4 feet of delicious sangak is just a little too much for you to eat in one sitting. Sangak is super easy to cut with kitchen scissors- just cut into rectangular or square pieces to your liking and store in a gallon ziploc bag and freeze the bread until you’re ready to pop it in the toaster. Sometimes I’m lazy and just store it in the freezer wrapped tightly in the brown paper, and it stays fresh for a few weeks this way.
Have a hot tip on where to get the freshest bread in Orange County? Let us know.
All photos by James Arambula
Special thanks to baker Delfino Osorio for demonstrating his craft.