Convenience Stores

Convenience Stores

Finding that 24/7 store to fulfill all your needs while biking in Korea.

Like in Japan, convenience stores are life support for many Koreans. On every city block, their doors welcome cold and hungry refugees every hour of the day, every day of the week.

Got problems? They’ve got solutions. Thirsty? Grab a some water (or a tallboy). Dying phone? Grab one of their portable batteries or phone chargers. Bad breath? Find mouthwash and more in the toiletries section.

GS25 and 7-Eleven are two dominate convenience store chains in Korea.

Convenience stores pay their bills with mealtime offerings. Lunchboxes. Cups of ramen. Open fridges filled with snacks complete a balanced-(ish) breakfast, lunch, dinner, or in-between.

Instant Ramen

Instant ramen claims a good chunk of physical space in most stores. Cups and packages jam aisles with endless options.

You’ll find classics like Shin Ramen. Oddities like the Cheese Paldo. How-did-they-do-that’s like jajangmyeon (black noodles). And why-did-they-do-that’s like jjamppong (seafood).

If you want to seer off those extra taste buds, find a cup of Buldalgbokk Eummyeon (불닭볶음면). Its legendary spice brought many a teenager to the soda aisles looking for relief.

Dining In

So you’ve chosen and paid for your cup of noodles (and sodium). Now what? Look for meter tall towers of cylindrical metal. These drink dispensers don’t dispense lemonade.

Peel back the corner to your cup ramen and take out the flavor packet. Now, slip the dispenser nozzle inside and let loose a torrent of steaming water. Use your chompers to tear the flavor packet. Sprinkle and mix. A few minutes later, you sub-₩3,000 lunch is ready.

Triangle Gimbap

Convenience stores stock plenty of rolls of old fashion gimbap. But, don’t skip the triangle gimbap (samgak; 삼각김밥). The palm sized snack follows the same recipe. Rice, veges and meat wrapped in seaweed.

Peel back the little tab on the top of the triangle. The cellophane strip will follow pre-cut lines, slowly presenting the crispy seaweed shell.

Lunchboxes (Dosirak)

Below the gimbap and crust-less sandwiches, you’ll find plastic wrapped trays of lunch. Also known as Dosirak (도시락), wives and mothers traditionally prepared these packaged lunches for their familial workers.

Inside a typical convenience store lunchbox, find a plot of rice, a main meat dish, and various banchan (side dishes; 반찬). These side dishes can include the ubiquitous kimchi, jeon (전), sliced egg roll, and more.

Beware! Some lunchboxes contain spicy surprises.

Hot Bar

Mill around the street vendors in Seoul’s Myeongdong (명동). You’ll discover the many varieties of Korea’s meat on a stick trend

In Korea, these are known as hot bar (핫바)? Hot meat on a bar or stick.

Convenience stores also serve up hot bar. However, they don’t carry the hot title as well as their flame-licked cousins.

Vacuum sealed sticks of meat hang near the open refrigerators. You’ll find a good variety, including quattro cheese. Garlic sausage. Tteokgalbi (떡갈비; spicy meat). 

Boiled Eggs & More

Need protein like Rocky? Don’t want to slurp down a glass of raw eggs. Convenience stores fixes your dietary need with any their assortments of boiled eggs. Some eggs have varing texture and slight flavor additives. But, the core recipe is the same. Take an egg. Boil it in water. And package it up.

You thought the fun ended there? Oh, you’re wrong. Fill your gullet with some prepackaged packaged hamburgers. Pop them into the microwave in the back

If you want a more conventional approach to a quick lunch, try out a egg, ham, or strawberry sandwich. Simple. Delicious. Crust-less.

Got a cold hamburger in hand. A chilly rice bowl. Plate of mandu that needs heat. The convenience stores got your back.

In smaller stores, you can find their microwave behind the counter. Larger stores center their food reactor in a small kitchenette, available for all customers.

Check the back of the packaging. Find a microwave or circle with colon separated numbers (01:15). You guessed it. Minutes and second. Pop it in. Beep, beep, beep. Chow down!

Food is culture. And every culture is different. What isn’t different? Junk food.

Korea’s junk yard haul may surprise. It may horrify. It may brink wonder. But, don’t be afraid to dig in. You’ll find sometimes to fit your taste. You might even discover a hidden taste fetish buried deep in your psyche.

Chips & Crisps

Korea goes way beyond your standard potato chips (crisps, for the English folk). If you’re looking to experiment, try shrimp flavored chips. O! Karto serves up french fry chips. That’s right! Potato chips in french fry form. Or, you can take the expressway to sweet town and dig into a bag of Honey Butter Chips

Don’t run from the more unusual offerings. Kkokkal Corn (꼬깔콘) is Korea’s version of Bugles. Pringles makes an apperance on the crispy scene with the familiar and exotic.

Choco Pies and Peperos

Korea has all manner of sweet things to satisfy your urges.

Choco Pies (초코파이) resemble moonpies. However, Korea stuffs them not only with marshmallow. You’ll also find cream stuffed. Green tea stuffed. Banana stuffed.

Peperos (빼빼로) boast by far the best marketing team of any sweet treat. Come to Korea on November 11th (a.k.a. Pepero Day) and you’ll find sweethearts exchanging boxes of these chocolate covered cookie sticks. Why November 11th? 11-11. Four pepero sticks in a row.

Diget (다이제) is a popular semi-sweet digestives in Korea. One side naked, one side covered in chocolate, they go great with a hot cup of coffee.

Pastries & Bread

Pastries and bread.

Quick breakfast.

Candy! Candy!

Candy.

There are over 40,000 convenience stores in Korea. More open everyday.

Find a nook, a closet, spacious hole in the wall. Blink and a ‘Coming Soon’ sign will appear.

Here are the most popular chains.

Thirsty! Well, you’ve got options. Like the more solid fair, Korea stocks their coolers with refreshing and (sometimes) hydrating selections.

Canned Coffee

Canned Coffee.

Bagged Drinks

Milk & Yogurt.

Milk & Yogurt

Milk & Yogurt.

Adult Beverages

Adult Beverages.

Quick breakfast.

You thought your meal options ended in ramen? You are mistaken. Check out the open fridges. Inside you’ll find enough snacks to complete a balanced-(ish) breakfast, lunch, dinner, or in-between.

You can also find hard-boiled eggs, ham sandwiches, both rolled and triangle gimbap, and good ol’ meat on a stick. Don’t forget about lunchboxes. Inside each plastic box, you can find rice, kimchi, and sausage separated into little cubbies. The clerk will heat it up in a microwave behind the counter. (Hungry workers will snatch most of the lunchboxes by noon.) If you don’t like to waste time in the morning, buy a bundle of pastries and carton of milk. Bring it back to your motel and stuff your face when you wake up. Remember, convenience stores stock shelves with foods that have longer life spans than a Galápagos tortoise. Weigh the positives and negatives of that. A food truck parked next to the cycling path near Busan. They provide packaged ramen in hot water.

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Convenience Stores

Lunchboxes and meat-on-a-stick. What can't you find along the 24/7 aisles of 7-Eleven and beyond.

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