by Gracie Devine, Greenheart Travel English Teacher in South Korea
One great thing about Korea is the low food cost. Typically, when I go out with a group of 4-6 people and we share a meal with several bottles of soju and beer on the side, the total typically runs 40,000-50,000 won. That’s $35-$44 for 4-6 people to be full and tipsy. THAT’S AMAZING! For the most part food in the grocery stores is really cheap too. The only things that I think cost too much are fruits and some kinds of vegetables.
Normally, I love to cook and at home Tim and I would cook just about every night. I’ve only cooked for myself once since I’ve been here. I went grocery shopping once and spent less than $35 on a weeks worth of groceries. Ramsey, my compatriot in Korea, helped me with eating that week but there was still several vegetables that I didn’t cook in time before it past expiration. For breakfast, I can grab something cheap at the Paris Baguette up the street, like a bagel or a croissant and both those things are in the range of 900 won to 1,600 won ($0.80-$1.40). I eat lunch at school (deducts about $0.75 from my paycheck per day) and normally I eat kimbap for dinner (1,200-2,500 won).
There is a kimbap shop in between my apartment and school. Ramsey and I go just about it everyday. Kimbap is the “Korean sushi” and is perfect for buying in a rush because it is sold at convenient stores already packaged and in a restaurant it typically takes 40 seconds to put together. It takes longer to order, wrap, or eat kimbap than it does to make it. Kimbap is seaweed and typically the inside is a bit of egg, pickled radish, the main filling (bulgogi, fried pork cutlet, etc.), and then a few other green veggies. Sometimes there will be dressing that, to me, resembles something like a spicy mayo.
Kimbap is one of the healthiest and cheapest convenience foods you can buy. And it’s so tasty and varied that I’ve been practically living off of it since I arrived. If Ramsey and I are at the kimbap-ery and we’re extra hungry, he’ll ask the owner, “Aunty, can we have some more kimchi and pickled radish?” Ramsey is a blue eyed, blonde haired wonder who speaks good Korean so what woman wouldn’t pile more sides on?
The bachelor food of choice for my fellow expat is bibimbap. Although, I do enjoy it a lot bibimbap is just not the object of my desire. But, I will tell you a little bit about it because it’s also pretty popular as a cheap convenience food.
Bibimbap is a bowl of hot rice topped with mixed vegetables, gochujang (red pepper paste), and a fried egg. The vegetables usually consist of cucumber, bean sprouts, kosari, mushrooms, and many types of vegetables that I don’t recognize. Sometimes beef or pork is mixed in and it is always topped with a fried egg. The serving you get really varies from place to place… I don’t think I’ve had two bibimbaps that were alike… except for at the restaurant that I go to all the time.
I’ll write more on Korean cuisine another day. I just thought I would share with you my new most favorite food in the world for today.