Taste of Korea: Must-eats at convenience stores in ROK
Taste of Korea: Must-eats at convenience stores in ROK
Convenience stores in Korea are always looking for ways to surprise their customers with interesting new products while promoting steady sellers. Here are some popular items to keep an eye out for when you visit a convenience store during your travels!
Koreans are known to love instant noodles, called ramyeon in Korean, so much that Korea always lands in the list of instant noodle consumption per capita ranking. Koreans’ love for noodles is also apparent in convenience stores, where you’ll find a variety of instant noodles. In addition to regular spicy noodles, flavored noodles are also popular like kimchi and cheese. If you are interested in trying more unique flavors, check out special ingredient noodles like mara flavors, pepper seasoning, or added scallions.
There are also limited flavor editions that can be found only at a specific franchise. For example, 7-Eleven features Soft Tofu Jin Jjambbong, a spicy seafood ramyeon mixed with soft tofu. GS25, on the other hand, sells Omori Kimchi Jjigae Ramyeon made with fermented kimchi broth for a combination of deep flavors.
TIP) Looking for non-spicy cup noodles? We recommend Jin Ramen (mild), Tempura Udon Noodle Soup, and Sari Gomtang Noodles.
Samgak gimbap, literally translated to triangle gimbap, is a type of rice ball stuffed with fillings inside and wrapped in dried seaweed on the outside. Samgak gimbap is one of the most steady-selling items at convenience stores. Its popularity lies in the fact that they make for an affordable and convenient meal and come in a variety of fillings to choose from. The most popular filling is the savory and subtly sweet tuna-mayonnaise. Another popular filling is Jeonju bibimbap, inspired by the food of the same name that offers a burst of flavors coming from the spicy seasoned rice and ground meat.
TIP) The combination of cup noodles and samgak gimbap is a convenience store soul food!
Did you know you could buy cooked eggs from convenience stores? Not just any cooked eggs, but the baked ones that are often found in jjimjilbang (Korean sauna)! These brown shell eggs are known for their chewiness and savory taste. They are also a great nutritious snack when you’re looking for something light to fill your stomach. Each store franchise promotes their own brands: 7-Eleven sells Guun-ran (baked eggs) and Hunje-ran (smoked eggs); GS25 sells Gamdong-ran (baked eggs); and CU sells Dongui Hunje-ran (smoked eggs).
TIP) Enjoy your eggs with sikhye (sweet rice punch) for the ultimate jjimjilbang combination.
Hoppang is a steamed bun dessert that represents winter. The name is derived from the Korean word for bread, “ppang,” and the “ho-ho” sound people make when they blow on food to cool the heat off. Hoppang is usually filled with sweet red bean paste, vegetables and meat, or pizza topping ingredients, which are all steady sellers. In the recent years, a wider variety of hoppang has become available such as honey sweet potato, sweet corn, and sweet pumpkin paste fillings.
TIP) Hoppang buns are usually kept warm in a steamer so tear the bun in half to cool the heat before eating.
Convenience store X F&B brand collaborations
Competitions are high among convenience franchises. To win the hearts of their consumers, store brands often collaborate with other companies to develop new and original products, especially in the food and beverage section. Some of the most recent trending products include Jeju Milk Monaca Ice Cream developed by 7-Eleven and Jeju Milk; Butter Beer developed by GS25 and Boulangerie Beaurre, a quality butter brand; and Yonsei Cream Bread developed by CU and Yonsei Milk.
The dairy section at a Korean convenience store is colorful than any other section in the fridge thanks to the variety of flavored milk on display. The all-time favorite Binggrae Banana Flavored Milk can be found in any convenience store regardless of store brands. Other recommended flavors include mocha milk, watermelon milk made with real watermelon extract, minty and sweet mint chocolate milk, white rice milk made with Korean rice powder and, last but not least, the classic chocolate and strawberry milk.
TIP) The recent trend among Gen-Z is Knotted Milk packaged in a pastel color container with a cute smiley face.
Tteokbokki is undoubtedly Koreans’ soul food. Tteokbokki is also sold in convenience stores in a cup container together with the sauce, so all you need to do is pour in hot water and wait until it’s ready to eat. A variety of flavors are available, ranging from the typical pepper-paste base spicy tteokbokki to non-spicy ones such as cream sauce tteokbokki, rose sauce tteokbokki, and jjajang (black bean sauce) tteokbokki. There’s even a tteokbokki with thinly sliced beef, so keep an eye out for new and unique tteokbokki products!
TIP) If the tteokbokki is too spicy for you, add in a sliced or string cheese to balance out the spiciness level.
Ice creams are another sweet dessert to look out for at convenience stores. Deowisanyang, a coffee flavored ice candy, is the perfect antidote to cool off in hot summer days while Bungeo Samanco is a vanilla sandwich ice cream with sweet beans covered in thin wafer crust. Another popular ice cream is Melona, an ice cream bar that comes in sweet fruity flavors.
In Korea, you don’t have to go to a liquor store to get your hands on alcohol. Convenience stores sell a wide variety of alcoholic drinks from beer, soju, makgeolli (Korean rice wine), and more. Among the trending alcoholic beverages on the market is 7-Eleven’s Im Chang-jung Honey Grain Powder Makgeolli, which was personally developed by the singer Im Chang-jung himself, who used over 20 types of grains and honey to come up with a special recipe. Another popular alcohol among Gen-Z is liquor soju developed by rapper Jay Park and GS25, and La Croisade red wine sold in Emart24 at a very affordable price.
Regional specialty product collaborations
You can also get a taste of regional specialty products from all over Korea at convenience stores thanks to items that incorporate local products from other regions. For example, Emart24 sells Icheon Rice Cone made with real rice harvested from Icheon while CU offers prepared meals and burgers using raspberry wine from Gochang. At 7-Eleven, you can find dried persimmon sujeonggwa (cinnamon punch) made with persimmons grown by local farmers in Sangju.
Convenience store sales reports have shown that vegan product revenue increased by twenty times in the recent years. Due to the growing social awareness for environment sustainability and animal rights, convenience stores continue to launch a wide array of food products that incorporate healthy and environment-friendly ingredients. To name a few, CU offers samgak gimbap made with vegan tuna, while GS25 sells two types of tteokbokki with meat substitute. If you’re looking for desserts, head to 7-Eleven for a vegan cookie that’s been certified by the Korea Agency of Vegan Certification and Services.
1330 Korea Travel Helpline: +82-2-1330 (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese, Russian, Vietnamese, Thai, Malay)
* This column was last updated in November 2022, and therefore information may differ from what is presented here. We advise you to check details before visiting.
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