Walking into a Korean convenience store is an extremely stimulating experience.
First, there’s a relieving rush of air conditioning, the greeting of familiar universal products like Powerade and Oreos, and suddenly thousand of plastic packages covered in Hangeul lettering and cutesy cartoon animal characters.
It can be hard to navigate the refrigerated section of plastic wrapped shrimp burgers or a hundred bottled teas without prior experience or knowledge of Korean language, but this is where we come in.
Whether you want to expand your lunch options, pick out the best snacks to take home as souvenirs, or finally know what that ramen flavor you were eating was, this guide has got you covered.
Fresh & To-Go
Sausage on a Stick
Quick, on-the-go protein options in the refrigerated section, don’t be afraid to try one of the sausages or fish balls from this area. Each comes in its own vacuum-sealed package for freshness and can be reheated in the microwave to taste.
You may be also surprised by how delicious it is! (and no different composition from you average breakfast sausage or hot dog).
갈비/ 고기– Beef products
오뎅 – Fishcake
Unless you’re at a neighborhood market with full-dozen packs of eggs, there will likely only be pre-cooked eggs in packs of one or two available.
These eggs are baked instead of boiled, giving them an orangey-brown color and a thick yolk. The baking process makes the eggs extremely easy to peel without the slightly slimy texture of a boiled egg. Smaller quail egg varieties may be available as a side dish as well.
계람 – Egg
The same concept as sausage on a stick, except not made to heat in the microwave. You can get creative ,however, slice these up in your ramen cup or microwave rice for an easy stomach-filler.
맥스 – Mixed flavor
크랍 – Real Crab
크림치즈 – Cream Cheese
닭 – Chicken
The Honey Butter craze has not neglected health foods as well. Typically at the end of the snacks aisle or on a rack at the back of the shop you can now find a dried nuts and fruits section.
Not only are there the typical packs of plain cashew and walnuts, but crazy flavor-fused almonds like “Banana Milk”, “Cafe Latte”, and “Chocolate Spicy”, transforming your boring health food to a perplexing and delicious snack.
For us, the cafe latte and chili cheese were a bit much, but Honey Butter and Wasabi almonds really hit the spot.
아몬드 – Almond
Milk & Other
Bangarae’s Classic Banana Milk is now a global icon. Nowadays, you can see this little bottle remade into plushies, blankets, t-shirts, and even bed frames, coffee tables, and backpacks.
If you’ve never tasted the creamy, sugary delight that is banana milk, we recommend that you start with this 1,200W bottle.
바나나 – Banana
맛 – Taste/flavor
우유 – Milk
South Korea is catching on to the health wave and moving on to dairy-free alternatives. Every convenience store now will carry soy milk (some sweetened like this sweet soy milk above).
7/11 carry Almond Breeze in original, chocolate, and banana milk. Other convenience stores will typically have Vegemil Soymilk and possibly walnut milk or coconut milk if you are lucky!
두유 – soy milk
알만드 우유 – almond milk
호두 우유 – walnut milk
Bagged drinks? These pouches of black coffee and americano drinks are a lifesaver in the summer months. There is a cooler of plastic ice cups somewhere nearby that come free with the purchase of a pouch.
Choose from sweet, hazelnut, or original coffees. Nowadays there are also a variety of ades, sweet teas, and coconut water to help you cool off.
Ramen & Rice
The classic and most well-known Korean ramen brand. Choose from the original, spicy red-cup version or the deluxe “Shin Ramyeon Black” that comes with two soup base packets that give a thicker, garlicky broth.
Both are beef based soups with a packet of dried mushrooms, green onion, and garlic. All convenience stores come with a microwave and boiled water station for preparing your ramen as well.
A vegetable oil and stir-fried black bean paste ramen, jajangmyeong is a deliciousy greasy and filling ramen affair. Jjapageti (shown above) is one of the most popular and yummy varieties, with separate packets for oil, sauces, and dried veggies.
Vegetarians beware however, typically pork products are used as a flavoring in this ramen.
If you ever see food packaging with a person on it, it means it is sponsored or endorsed by a celebrity! These ramen bowls typically have a 200W premium on them but the broth is thick and complex in flavor.
Choose from Budae Jigae (army stew- includes sausages) or Kimchi jigae (kimchi and pork based broth), mix well, and enjoy.
Ddeokbokki, Vegetable Ramen, Cheese ramen, and select Kimchi ramens will be meat-free! Be sure to check the packaging, and if anything features a cute animal on the packaging… the food most likely includes that animal as well.
Beware of anything labeled:
고기 – Meat
짬퐁 – Popular seafood stew
새우 – Shrimp
The best convenience store rice, enjoy steaming and flavorful grains after one-minute in the microwave. You can typically choose from the cheapest white rice to more expensive, healthier varieties of purple, brown, and mixed bean rice.
Stores will also carry 덥밥 (deob-bab) packages which is rice that is already stir-fried or flavored with vegetables and things added to it already for a complete meal.
You can also try the 죽 (juk) which is a rice porridge in little soup cups on the top shelf. This is best eaten warm during the wintertime or as a filling and comforting breakfast.
In the refrigerated section, you can also find small packages of meats and pre-made stir-frys that are meant to go alongside a rice package. These are quick and easy to heat up but usually run along the spicy side.
맨군/ 맵다 – Spicy
고추장 – Red pepper paste, flavorful but spicy
오징오 – Squid
볶음 – Stir fried
불고기 – Grilled and marinated meat
스팜 – Spam, a canned precooked meat tasting like bacon with a gelatinous texture.
Rice Rolls & Lunchboxes
Microwave cheeseburgers, egg salad & jam sandwiches, and “real Chicago hot dogs” line the shelves of the meal refrigerators. While it is all too easy to stick with the familiar ham and cheese, these Korean lunch sets are much more nutritious and better value!
Also known as triangle kimbap, these little three-edged snacks are absolute heaven to grab on the go and take to the subway. Each one is stuffed with plenty of white rice as well as a ball of meat and vegetables.
Some typical flavors include:
닭갈비 – Spicy stir-fried chicken
참치 김치 – Tuna and kimchi
참치 마요네즈 – Tuna mayonnaise
배장어 – Eel
A Prime example of doshirak or Korean lunchboxes which include a healthy portion of rice as well as some protein options (this one has egg, spicy pork, and sausages) and vegetable side dishes.
The boxes can be warmed in their plastic containers via the store’s microwave or taken on the go to a park .
Our favorite doshirak comes from Ministop, which offer purple rice instead or white rice in their boxes. 7/11 also usually have a widest variety of boxes as well as a popular bimbimbap doshirak.
The Sweet Stuff
The second-largest aisle of a convenience store is bursting with custard pies, cakes, and cookies. Some resemble what you see at home (Mr. Digestives, Ice Cream Flavored Oreos, Cookies and Creme Hershey’s Bars), but others may be not so recognizable.
10Magazine recommends these classic Korean brands:
Classic Orion Chocopies, started in 1973 out of a hotel dessert concept, this snack includes two chocolate covered vanilla biscuit cakes sandwiching marshmallow cream.
These are immensely popular abroad, with 12.1 billion Chocopies already been sold outside of Korea. Additionally, there were serious tensions this past year at a joint-run North Korean South Korean factory as goods were found being smuggled North of the border, included in the secret packages were Chocopies.
A single Chocopie is said to cost upwards of $9USD in the North Korean black market, but you can buy two-dozen of them in South Korea for that price! Other popular flavors include Banana, Double Chocolate, and Green Tea.
One of the best biscuits available in South Korea, these cookies are individually packaged deliciousness of a butter cracker and milk chocolate.
Each cookie features a stereotypical “European” design such as an old galley ship, a harp, or an old-fashioned bicycle. They’re semi-sweet with a soothing crunch and hold up well with a cup of tea or coffee.
You know if a supermarket snack is above 1,500W , you are getting a deluxe good.
Market O real brownie is made of 52% real chocolate and is 100% real deliciousness. There is even a Lotte snack outlet store in which you can buy dozen-set gift boxes and bulk order brownies to be shipped out to your home country.
They’re fudge delights with chopped bits of milk chocolates inside that taste even better when warmed in the microwave with a bit of vanilla ice cream.
The most popular of Korean Chocolate brands, Ghana Chocolate is available at every convenience store and satisfies any chocolate craving at a 1,000W price.
The taste is exactly the same to a Hershey’s Bar, except without the export premium. While the name refers to Ghana, the world’s 2nd largest exporter of cocoa beans, the company does make any claims on single-country origin.
Enjoy classic milk chocolate, dark chocolate, or variety bars like the hazelnut nougat bar above.
Fruity Ice Creams
Melona, an unbelievably creamy honeydew flavored ice bar. The popsicle shape is a bit strange, like a brick on a stick, but the taste is amazing. Melona also makes strawberry, yogurt, and mango flavors, all with a very light fruit flavor and their trademark melt-in-your-mouth creaminess.
Pear Bomb, an Asian pear flavored ice slush that comes in a squeezable, no-mess packet. Enjoy a sweet tangy flavor that is wonderfully refreshing in the summer time, but doesn’t fill you up like a decadent creamy bar.
Ice Yogurt, essentially an ice cream version of the popular Yakuit drinkable yogurt. Yes ,we’ve tried it. Yes, it’s glorious.
Hershey’s Cone, the most decadent discount ice cream cone there is. Chocolate ice cream with a vanilla swirl and chocolate chopped bits on top with a crunchy waffle cone and hidden chocolate surprise at the bottom.
Cledor, Bangarae’s back at it again with a deluxe chocolate cone. Smooth, rich chocolate ice cream with the creaminess and intensity of gelato. This is the most luxurious ice cream cone out there at a 2,500W premium price.
World Cone, The most popular Korean cone brand, World Cone’s swirl together the classic vanilla, chocolate, and chopped nuts combination with a bit of chocolate at the end of the cone. They also have a wonderful caramel flavor with peanut topping.
Another classic Lotte snack, Pepepero are a national treasure with their holiday (Pepero day is similar to Valentines day when lovers and classmates decorate and gift eachother these sweet, stick-shaped sweets).
Foreigners may already familar with these chocolate-covered biscuit sticks as Mikkaido or Pocky, but Pepero come with a wide variety of flavors from Nude Green Tea to Coconut Chocolate and Banana Orea.
Notice a suspicious looking bottle with a marijuan leaf above your beloved soju?
While often used as a mixer with fruit soju, Brother’s Soda still has an alcohol content of 3% ( as compared to soju’s average alcohol content of 14%). The flavor and extra carbonation still disguise the bite of the soju well though.
When Bohae created the soda their aim was to have the product tast just like soda, with no hint of alcohol. They have also met much sucess thanks to their contraversial marijuana leaf bottle, with many photos of its design poping up on instagram as #부라더소다 (BrotherSoda).
Similar to the canned Japanese Sake soda, but much more price-friendly Soda Tok’s fruit dews come in adorably colorful cans with a tropical variety of flavors.
Choose from white peach, green grape, apple, banana, mango, and yogurt flavors, and enjoy a light and fruity taste. With 3% alcohol content, it can feel as if there is no alcohol at all.
These sodas are mostly marketed towards women in their design and sweet flavors, but they also serve as great mixers for harder liquors.
The Crunchy Stuff
Movie snacks, late-night munchies, or alcohol accompaniments (anju), this is always the largest aisle in the convenience, with every flavor chip, crisp, and puff imaginable. But with some many delicious snacks to choose from, how do you choose?
Ketchups Chips, originally a Canadian invention, these bad boys pack a ton of flavor and taste like a just-dipped french fry (although nothing like the original Canadian chips). You can find them in original or spicy flavors (like the one above).
Pairs best with a pint of Cass or Hitte.
Kokkalon, the Korean edition of Bugles, perfect little cone crisps.
Line them up on your fingertips and eat them one by one, and then lick the powdered flavoring off! You can find these cones in a variety of flavors from honey butter to shrimp mayo or hot n’ spicy.
Honey Butter Chips
South Korea’s Honey Butter craze is still going strong.
You’ll usually see these chips at a premium price of 1,200W, so if you spot them lower than that make sure to grab a few. This is a chip that is definitely worth the hype, savory potato crisp with
This is a chip that is definitely worth the hype, savory potato crisp with a tinge of sweet honey and rich, buttery aftertaste satisfy all cravings in one bag.
Shrimp Chips (Original or Spicy), shaped like french fries, these things go down easy with a very satisfying crunch. Another perk of this brand is that its not too salty and they come in two different varieties
Another perk of this brand is that it is not too salty and the Original flavor is truly very mild. Spice-lovers and spice-haters alike can come together over these chips.
Jollypong, a puffed buckwheat crisps cover in honey. Think like a healthier, lighter cheerio with a delightfully sweet crunch. This can be eaten with your hands, in a bowl of milk with a spoon, or blended with yogurt to make a satisfying smoothie.
Somewhere around the corner from the crisp aisle, you’ll find a rack of Korea’s beef jerky: dried squid.
This comes in a variety of shapes and flavors from a whole squid to dried tentacles to flakes with butter flavor, spicy, or original/savory. Dried squid or fish and fruit were the traditional anju before the potato crisps and Oreos came about so if you would like a throwback evening or a healthier bite, try a pack of this.
Magical Hangover Remedies
꿀 – Honeyed, Sweet Tea
둥굴레 차 – Solomon Tea
Made from a mixture of boiled herbal roots, this tea has a nutty and sweet flavor. Its said to help inflammation and cool/hydrate the body.
보리차 – Barley Tea
A caffeine free tea that does wonders for digestion, it is also said to lower blood viscosity but the majority of university students can be found buying a bottle after a night out.
인삼 차 – Ginseng Tea
An energizing tea used to treat chronic fatigue and often given to those who have a cold.
그린티/녹차 – Green Tea
A caffeinate tea to help inflammation and anxiety as well as boost metabolism.
Tried and true, after a long night of drinking this magical hangover cure liquid is said have you up at dawn by the next day. It is usually priced at 4,000W and has a very bitter aftertaste but desperate times call for desperate measures?
The most popular and widely marketed of hangover drinks, it has a very sweet taste similar to that of energy drinks or cough syrup. The formula is super effective ,however, making this the most popular morning-after drink with the youngsters.
Morning Care (모닝 케어)
With an active ingredient of milk thistle, this drink effectively soothes dry mouth and headaches the next day. Despite the name, it’s most effective when drunk before bed.
Vitamin C (비타민 C)
For when you’re not feeling horrible, but need a little midday perk-up this sweet little liquid packs over 1,000mg of Vitamin C is said to work wonders on the skin.