Gauran Sharma, Delhi
If you’re new to the topic of Korean snacks, then I would suggest to not underestimate the Korean instant food market. You will be surprised at the varieties and brands of instant food that are available at every regular convenience store across South Korea. All K-drama and K-pop lovers know what it’s like to drool over the meals that are shown in their favorite dramas or V-Lives. It’s a struggle for international fans who don’t get to eat the same food as their favorite Korean actors and idols do every day. That cravings you get when you see them slurp Ramyeon noodles during a V-Live or when the poor girl in a drama eats a triangular gimbap like it’s her last meal, it all makes you want to eat the deliciously tempting food.
But in real life, it is just some convenience-store-food that most Koreans have the means to access easily. So, if you ever get the chance to go to Korea or you get some easy access to Korean-convenience-store-food, these are some must-try items on the list:
The first thing that comes to mind when you mention Korean instant food is Ramyeon. Korean Ramyeon has become very popular during the years and has been in heavy demand globally. Due to a huge Ramyeon market in Korea, these instant noodles are available in every convenience store all over the country. Because of easy availability and being an instant food, people prefer to eat Ramyeon as whole hearty meals as well as midnight snacks. Ramyeon is also eaten with a variety of toppings like green onions, meat, eggs, beef, and anything that goes well with the noodles. The most popular Ramyeon in Korea is the Nongshim Shin Ramyeon which has a tangy, spicy taste. The beef bone broth or miso base makes it richer in flavour. These spicy noodles are most preferred because they work as stress relievers/comfort food.
Other popular types of Ramyeon are Kimchi Ramyeon, which is preferred by vegetarian consumers; Samyang Cheese Hot Chicken Flavor Ramyeon, which is a cheese lover’s paradise; and Ottogi Jin Jjambbong Spicy Seafood Ramyeon which is for seafood lovers.
Kimchi is one of the most common and essential side dishes in Korean households. It is a traditional Korean dish that can have varying components but the method of making it is the same. It usually includes a mix of vegetables, chili peppers, salt, garlic, ginger, and fish sauce which is pickled and fermented. Cabbage is the most common ingredient in Kimchi followed by carrots, scallions, and cucumber. Although the mixing process and fermentation takes time but once prepared, Kimchi can be used as an instant food that can be served with almost every Korean meal as a side dish, appetizer, or as an ingredient. Kimchi is so tasty in itself that it can even be eaten solely or with plain rice. It is also used to flavour bland food to make it tastier. Ready-made Kimchi is also sold in many convenience stores.
Tteokbokki is a rice cake dish beloved by many and it is a very popular street food in Korea. It is made with cylinder-shaped white rice cakes and is one of the most preferred comfort snacks because of its spicy taste. The spiciness comes from the Tteokbokki sauce which is made using Korean red chilli pepper paste, called Gochujang. People also add other ingredients to it as well such as fishcakes, ramyeon, dumplings, eggs, and even cheese. Instant Tteokbokki is easily available at Korean convenience stores. Just add hot water to the contents of the instant Tteokbokki, let it cook for a short while and it is ready to eat.
These days, Korean snacks are becoming popular globally because of their unique flavours which are not available in other countries, making people curious to try them out and then eventually, getting addicted to them. The Honey Butter Chips are extremely popular in the market because of their sweet and salty addicting flavor which makes you want more. Orion Choco Pie is a sweet snack. It looks like a sponge cake coated with chocolate and has a marshmallow filling. It is a must-eat for people who have a sweet tooth.
Korean roasted seaweed snack, as the name goes, is just roasted seaweed seasoned with salt and is enjoyed by people as a healthy snack because of its low calories and high nutrients. There are plenty of different snacks in the Korean market. So, you can explore them without getting bored real fast.
Basically, sets are combinations of different food that are available at convenience stores. Korean university students usually mix and match different types of food to make something tastier. The most popular sets are:
Mark Set: This set is named after none other than the famous K-pop idol, Mark from GOT7, but the recipe has nothing to do with him. The set was created by a fan of his who named it after him just to get his name out there and voila! Mark got more attention because of it as well. It is a delicious combination of Tteokbokki, spaghetti, mozzarella cheese, sausages, and string cheese. It takes only 4 minutes to make it and the result tastes heavenly.
The Banzz Set: Banzz is a YouTuber who records Mukbangs, basically food eating videos. He introduced this set and thus, it got named after him. All it requires is Pizza with some smoked chicken on top and Tteokbokki which is then topped with string cheese and then the set is microwaved together. The cheesy dish is hot and delicious. so it’s a must-try for food lovers.
Buldak-bokkeumbap (Fire Rice): As the name suggests, this set is a combination of Buldak-bokkeum-myeon or fire noodles and Samgak Gimbap or triangular gimbap made with tuna; which is topped with string cheese and are then microwaved together and deliciously devoured.
These are just some examples of popular Korean instant food, but the list goes on. Which Korean instant food is your favorite? Tell us about it in the comments below!