When I’m in another country, the first thing I do is look for a convenience store or a grocery to explore. I could spend an entire day at the grocery, noting the differences in produce, learning about the things that fill up their shelves. I wonder about their local fruits, how their meat looks, the kind of fish available, the spices and mixes, the ready-to-eat section and of course, the snacks. Convenience store shopping is something I do almost ritually when I’m abroad. It’s sort of become this obsession to discover the next awesome foreign snack or drink.
I gage how affordable staying in a certain country is based on how much they sell a liter of mineral water at the convenience store. In Seoul, a bottle costs 900 won which is equal to Php 36. I learned that on day one. Not bad.
They have a whole lot of different convenience stores in Seoul and each of the stores have a different selection. The one closest to us was 7-11 but there’s also GS25, CVS CU Later, Family Mart, Mini-Stop, etc. It never ends.
I tend to gravitate towards Yakult-like drinks everywhere. Among the three I tried, this was the absolute best. Unlike Thailand and Japan, Korea doesn’t serve their probiotic drinks in bigger bottles. This was about 500 won.
Wasn’t hot on kimchi until I found this inside a GS25 freezer – Spam with Kimchi Fried Rice for about 3500 won.
After 3 minutes in the microwave, you get all of this junk. Beautiful. It was such a perfectly honest dish, I scarfed down the whole thing for breakfast while Carina was in the shower. I find this frozen meal to be great because it delivers what it promises. It’s simple and straightforward and that’s what I like when it comes to food. You get a generous helping of Spam with a possibly pedestrian tourist friendly version of Kimchi rice. Nothing too sour or aggressively spicy, just enough.
This trip’s new discovery – Samjak-Kimbap, also popularly known as Onigiri in Japan. Samjak-Kimbap is basically triangular shaped Korean fried rice, wrapped in dried seaweed (nori). These go for about 800 won and come in different interesting flavors. The ones I tried and enjoyed were the Tuna Kimchi Rice, Fire Chicken Rice, Jeonju Bibimbap, Chicken Galbi Rice and Beef Galbi Rice. In some shops, the wrappers didn’t have any English translation so we’d just hope for the best.
Seoul has a great instant noodle selection and since I’m more drawn to instant pancit than I am to instant ramen, I decided to get my staple: Paldo’s Bibim Men. This is both sweet and spicy but not in the overpowering way that you can’t taste anything else. This was 1200 won in 7-11.
The serving’s big, noodles are perfectly bouncy. And you can find this in SM grocery stores in Manila for about Php 38. Go try it please.
You might be wondering why I didn’t go and try other pancits in Korea. I actually did once but it was just too spicy I failed to document the entire experience. I kind of died not being able to feel my tongue cause. My basic tourist tip is to avoid black and red packaging with chillis on them if you don’t want your mouth to burn.
We were fortunate enough to have a kitchenette in the apartment we were renting so when we were at HomePlus, one of the bigger grocery stores in Seoul, we bought two bags of Bibigo Korean Royal Court Dumplings at a buy one take one deal for about 7000 won. There were about 20 dumplings per bag so this was practically a steal.
Carina boiled them to perfection and we had them for two days worth of breakfast. These dumplings tasted like a mix between gyoza and kuchay dumplings – pork with chives but with noodles in them. Yummy. We ate these with no soy sauce but they were still so tasty.
It was cold one day so I opened the ‘warmer’ (aka opposite of a ref) and pulled out this interesting looking drink. I’m guessing it’s Black Soybean Milk. It was comforting and tasted like a combination of black sesame and soy milk.
That concludes this post. I thought I took more photos of the other things I ate and drank but I guess I decided to ‘live’ more than I remembered to document. I suppose that is a good thing? Tell me about what you eat when you’re abroad? Which country has the best probiotic drink? Japan’s Bikkle still takes the cake for me.