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.
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.
Instant ramen claims a good chunk of physical space in most stores. Cups and packages jam aisles with endless options.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Korean has evolved from hungry-stomach poverty to a western lifestyle rapidly. However, breakfast options still lag behind. Most Koreans dine on a bowl of home cooked rice in the morning. Waffles and flapjacks just aren’t an option.
So, if you want a quick injection of carbs to start your day, hit up the local GS25. Grab an armful of pastries, carton of, maybe a canned coffee. Bring them back to your motel, throw them in the mini-fridge, then stuff your face when you wake up.
It’s not the healthiest option. But, it’ll get you on the road fast.
If you’re every having trouble remembering what it was like to be a kid, swing by the candy aisle.
왕꿈틀이 translates to Big Gummy Worms. They’re, you guessed it, Korea’s version of the good ol’ gummy worm. They’re sweet and ubiquitous.
Lotte is one of Korea’s mega corps. In addition to theme parks and apartment buildings, they also make sweet things. Bars of milk chocolate and dark chocolate Ghana decorate every sweet tooth aisle on the peninsula.
The Spanish confectionery Chupa Chups make lollipops and more. They’ve grabbed Korean children’s imagination, and thus a permanent space on convenience store shelves.
Crown Confectionery is another homegrown candy maker. Their most popular offering is 마이쮸 (Ma-ie-jju). Like Starburst, the taffy candy comes in grape, strawberry, and apple flavors.
The early 20th century west introduced beer to Korea. It dug deep fast. The tallboy (500 ml), lager form is the most popular.
Though foreign brands take up more cooler space these days, Cass (OB) and Hite dominate the market. Notorious for their “lighter taste,” price and national pride help push tankers full of brew into thirty stomachs.