Life in South Korea moves very quickly. Mix that with an increase in single-person households that desire rapid, easy one-portion meals and it becomes easy to see why this small peninsula is home to a whopping 33,000 convenience stores. To get an idea of what that means, stand on any street corner in South Korea and you’re bound to see at least one. These stores are a go-to morning and night if you’re looking for a quick snack or even a simple meal. They can be a bit overwhelming if you’re not familiar with the products, but this list will highlight some of the most popular convenience store snacks in South Korea.
In every South Korean convenience store there is almost an entire aisle dedicated to ramen noodles. It’s the ideal quick lunch or dinner and is especially popular among students. Every convenience store will provide water, a microwave and a few tables so you can buy your ramen and enjoy it right in the store.
The classic variety has a beef broth and is accompanied by a packet of dried vegetables. There are lots of vegetarian-friendly varieties, such as cheese and kimchi; however, these can be difficult to spot. A good rule of thumb is to avoid any packaging that features a cute animal on it. Usually this refers to products with meat in them. Finally, there are also premium varieties that feature flavors like budae jigae (stew with sausages) or kimchi jigae (kimchi and pork based broth). Basic ramen costs about 850 SKW (0.74 USD) while premium varieties cost about 1,5000 SKW (1.30 USD).
Kimbap is the Korean equivalent of sushi. ‘Kim’ means dried seaweed in Korean, while ‘bap’ means rice. Usually it comes in rolls just like its Japanese counterpart, but the samgak variety is triangular. These snacks are incredibly hearty; just one will keep you full for hours. Seaweed and rice encapsulate the fillings, of which there are many varieties. Some of the most popular include chicken, tuna and kimchi, and eel. These snacks are also very portable, making them a busy traveler’s best friend. Usually they cost about 900 SKW (0.79 USD).
Honey butter chips
When these chips were first released in August 2014, they were incredibly popular among Korean consumers, so much so that a new term was created to describe the phenomenon—The Honey-Butter Craze. During the final half of 2014 and the beginning of 2015, convenience store owners had to impose buying limits and waitlists for customers. Koreans bought bags online at three times the retail price. A smart phone app was even launched to track the availability in nearby stores.
Luckily the trend has died down and these tasty chips can be found in nearly every convenience store. Look for a bright yellow bag in the chip aisle and you’ll find them easily. They have an interesting mix of sweet and salty and will probably be unlike any other chip you’ve tasted. A bag typically costs around 1,200 SKW (1.05 USD), making them an affordable snack to stock up on.
These are the ultimate snack for all those with a serious sweet tooth. A classic in Korea since their debut in 1973, these tempting treats continue to be wildly popular. The snack is simple: marshmallow cream is sandwiched between two chocolate-covered vanilla biscuits, but Koreans and foreigners alike are enamored with them.
They are popular abroad, including in North Korea, where it was recently discovered that they were being smuggled into a North- and South Korean-run factory. There is even a North Korean black market for these snacks where a single pie can go for 23.00 USD. Luckily the prices are much more affordable in South Korea. One box of 12 choco pies costs about 6,000 SKW (5.25 USD). Try the original, or opt for one of the other flavors like banana, double chocolate, or green tea.
These chocolate-covered biscuit sticks are similar to Mikkaido and Pocky, which are more popular abroad, but Koreans are faithful to their beloved Pepero. There is even a day, November 11, designated as “Pepero Day” in which friends, colleagues and loves exchange boxes of them. There are a variety of flavors available such as strawberry, tiramisu cheese, and black chocolate cookie. One box is big enough to share and costs only 900 SKW (0.79 USD).
Plenty of options to keep you full all day long
Whether you’re in the mood for a quick meal, a portable snack to keep you fueled during a day of sightseeing, or a dessert to satisfy a sweet craving, you’ll be sure to find something to satisfy your desires. The most popular stores are CU, GS25, and 7-Eleven. Each store carries more or less the same products for the same prices so you can choose any store and not worry about overspending. Some stores are open 24 hours a day, while others are closed between 1.00 AM and 6.00 AM.
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