Anonymous of Holland            -A Dutchman in Korea-

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Korean Food and Supermarkets

Good evening and happy Seollal, everyone!

Due to the Lunar New Year giving me a whopping (sarcasm totally intended) three days off and me having messed up my Dragon Age game by trying to patch it (ㅜ.ㅜ), I have some free time to post about something you asked about: Korean food and supermarkets!

I don’t really think about it a lot anymore nowadays, but I remember I was pretty surprised the first time I walked into a large Korean supermarket. Take a look!

Although superficially it’s very similar to any European supermarket, the whole people-standing-in-front-of-stuff-trying-to-make-you-buy-it thing really reminded me more of a traditional market, and the whole hey-stand-in-line-for-some-free-food thing seemed to come straight out of a movie. It’s kinda weird sometimes when I’m just trying to browse some stuff and some woman keeps pushing a certain brand on me because “it’s on sale this week!” and it kinda feels like walking into one of those clothing stores that have people constantly following you and looking over your shoulder trying to find an opening to ask you if you need anything so it makes me a bit uncomfortable. The free food is pretty neat though.

As you might’ve seen in the video, the general goods on sale are also quite different from what we’re used to back home. Can you imagine walking into a supermarket in your country and running into an entire aisle of dried seaweed, or a tank full of giant living crabs? Likewise Koreans would probably scoff at our 400 gram boxes of rice or 500ml bottles of soy sauce and wonder why we have so many different kinds of microwave meals.

When it comes to shopping, I try to shop as economically as possible. Since meat, vegetables and fruits are very expensive here, I usually wait until something is on sale before I buy it, and try to make due with what I can get my hands on. Once a month my 형 takes me to Costco, an American superstore, where I can buy cheap prepackaged meats, cheese (also insanely expensive (not to mention gross!) in Korea), snacks, bread (kinda shockingly I can buy half a bread here for the same price as two whole breads back in the Netherlands) and other necessities. It’s a real savior. Without Costco I’d probably be eating even worse because I wouldn’t be able to afford eating any meat.

[Here's a recent flyer from Lotte Mart I've managed to piece together so you can get an idea of what prices are like here. 1 euro is about 1200 won]

[Here’s a recent flyer from Lotte Mart I’ve managed to piece together so you can get an idea of what prices are like here. 1 euro is about 1200 won]

As I might’ve mentioned before, eating out is actually cheaper than properly cooking. If I were to buy all the ingredients for Kimchi Chigae for example, I’d probably spend about 10,000 won, but if I’d go to a restaurant and order it, I’d be out maybe 5,000. Still, the way I’m living now (eating rice with some Costco meat, eggs, soy sauce and sometimes an Otoggi package for extra flavor) I’m making due with about 200,000 (around €160) worth of groceries every month. Unfortunately, I have to live frugally like that because my monthly costs leave me with only 200,000 won disposable income a month, which isn’t exactly a mountain of cash. Regardless I never once regret moving out of the dormitory, because it’s simply great living here by my own rules in my own space. I do get a little jelly when I see all the pictures of the amazing foods my classmates are eating and the great trips they’re going on though.. But then I remember I’ve been up until 4 AM playing video games, drinking beer and walking around in my underwear and it all feels like a pretty fair trade.

Anyway, in the mornings, I always eat cereal. It’s fast, easy and nutritious so I’ve bought a few different varieties to mix up the flavors a bit and eat that every morning. In the afternoons, I generally eat either ramyun or toast with cheese and egg. Our lunch break is only an hour, so there’s no time to prepare a real Korean lunch with a bunch of side dishes (not that I’d be able to if I did have more time though). The red pepper cheese I bought from Costco tastes amazing, and toasting the bread in a frying pan is going reasonably well. The evening meals, as I said, usually consist of some manner of prepackaged meat (spam, chicken breast, sausages) mixed with onions, slices of potatoes, soy sauce, gochujang or oyster sauce and of course rice. One of the first things I bought when I started living on my own was a rice cooker, and I’m definitely glad that I did. With minimal effort it cooks perfect rice for you, and you can leave the rice in there for the next day (more expensive models are amazing at this, you can even keep rice in there for a whole week, but obviously I was too cheap to get one of those). Sometimes I add an Ottogi pack. Those are similar to our microwave meals, I guess, only they’re Korean style. So they’d be like curry, meat in spicy sauce, those sort of things. The taste isn’t amazing, but a lot of that can be fixed by adding the right amounts of gochujang, salt and pepper.

Food1 Food2 Food3 Food4

So far, I haven’t gotten into actual cooking much yet, mostly because I’m just too cheap to buy the ingredients and this month we’ve been having too much class to waste time on cooking when I could be playing video games instead. I did however learn how to make Kimchi Bokkum and it was so good with so little effort that I’m definitely planning to learn some more stuff. Korean food is absolutely delicious, so if I can find out how to properly make it, I’ll be set for life.

Oh, I also shot this video at a traditional market I visited last weekend in Seoul. These kinds of markets really invoke those scenes that you think of when you think of ‘Asia’, and eating the food for sale there you absolutely experience the real taste of Korea.

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2 comments on “Korean Food and Supermarkets

  1. Gemma jwz
    21 February 2015

    Leuk!! Dank! :) En je kan dus beter drank kopen dan een watermeloen?

    • Anon Of Holland
      22 February 2015

      Drank is sowieso altijd preferable over een watermeloen maar…yeah. Soju is like minder dan een euro per flesje, Koreaans bier kost ook bijna niks (and rightfully so), maar voor 20,000 won zou je een redelijke fles wijn kunnen kopen. En voor de prijs van 4 watermeloenen heb je een echte whiskey ;_;

      Fruit is hier sowieso een beetje een ‘statussymbool’. De kerk waarvoor ik werkte gaf ons altijd kilos appels en mandarijnen, en ook van ouders en leraren enzo krijg je vaak fruit.

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This entry was posted on 21 February 2015 by in Diary, Korea and tagged , , , , , , , .

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