Introducing The Ch’eat Sheet, a Chincha column devoted to savoring food and drink in the Seoul area. The Ch’eat Sheet is written for foodies or hungry people eating out or hoping to make something of their apartment kitchens. What’s a good concert without a good meal, glass of wine, or bowl of patbingsu beforehand, anyway? Chincha’s got your stellar taste in mind, so let us tell you what to chew.
Forget a year. Forget five years. If you’ve been far from home for more than a month, you’ve probably had a craving for something unattainable. And whether that thing comes out of a microwave, a convenience store, or your mother’s sweat and tears, thinking of it pangs your insides. Thankfully (sorta), the world is shrinking. Everything from Subway sandwich shops to American style burger joints seem to be popping up rapidly around Seoul. Resourceful Seoulites need not pine. Mom’s macaroni and cheese is out of reach, but you can at least get a slew of blue boxes of the stuff for triple the domestic price.
Constant schleps to Costco and expensive and mostly Itaewon-bound foreigner markets can be a drag. Smart foodies turned entrepreneurs are working to make your life easier and more delicious by crafting the food you miss to be delivered to your door. We have tracked down businesses doing just that and tasted what they have to offer. The most work required of you is getting to the ATM to make that bank transfer. Happy eating!
Hummus in Korea*: The list of foods difficult to find in is growing shorter, but hummus remains among the most elusive. Chickpeas, the heart of hummus, are also scarce. Seoul has handfuls of Middle Eastern and Israeli-style restaurants where hummus can be had, but finding the stuff at a grocery store is a true rarity. No, not even at most Costcos. It’s that dire. Thanks to the entrepreneurial godsend of Hummus in Korea, that void has been filled. Katie Eichten worked at making the hummus she loved and missed at home in Bundang, and, you guessed it, turned it into a business. Hummus in Korea consists of her and her partner Jared. Their user friendly (I was truly delighted at how easy it was) website offers hummus individually for around W6,500 or the economical Hummus Variety Packs of three or four. Pita bread is available too. The hummus is basic and, though not as thick as a Western name-brand, just as flavorful and lower in salt. The Green Olive Goddess and the Enticing Eggplant come recommended.
* “Mediterranean Food in Korea” and “Greek Yogurt in Korea” are also part of Katie Eichten’s company. By visiting medfoodinkorea.com, you can find for-order falafel, greek yogurt, flat bread, mediterranean stews and desserts and more Middle Eastern delights.
Alien’s Day Out Bakeshop: If you follow the blog, you know Mipa of Alien’s Day Out makes life in Korea adorably fun and delicious, particularly for her fellow vegans. Mipa’s first passion is baked goods, and her Alien’s Day Out Bakeshop delivers dairy-less, egg-less sweets to your door. Cookies, muffins and breads can be had for standard delivery, and cakes for special order are also available. The Bakeshop has JUST opened a brick-and-mortar location called in Itaewon. Try her bolder flavors like the surprisingly addictive Pomegranate Cookie Bites or her Spicy Chocolate Snickerdoodles. The classics are there too, including Banana Chocolate Chip muffins that almost taste healthy, as well as a gluten-free chocolate chip cookie. Shipping on most orders is W4,000.
EZ Shop Korea: From cured meats to Gillette razor blades to steak rubs to Velveeta Shells & Cheese, EZ Shop is a one stop. The business began as a way to get Costco-specific items delivered to your door without the Costco hassle. EZShop does carry a large selection of Kirkland and Costco-only brands, but its offerings extend beyond that; some clothing items from stores such as Target and Victoria’s Secret are also available for purchase. Delivering to all corners of Korea — yup, even Jeju! — EZ Shop Korea is truly the ultimate online foreign food market for anyone a bit out of Itaewon bounds. If you can think of it, they probably have it. Not just sour cream but light sour cream. A variety of gluten-free and organic foods are also offered. No membership fee is required (unlike Costco) but you do need to register with the site in order for delivery.
Gringos Burritos: Mexican food in the Seoul area, with few standout exceptions, is lackluster and expensive. And quick, take-out style Mexican is limited to Taco Bell. The two expat guys behind Gringos understand that. Americans hailing from LA and Colorado, they know good burritos. Their goal is to bring fresh-tasting and authentic burritos to the greater Seoul area. The Gringos guys are full-time English teachers (and wanted to keep their names out of this article for that reason) working in the kitchen late into the evening and sending out deliveries of frozen burritos, bean dip, chili con carne, and fresh salsa each week out of their HQ in Ilsan. They intend to stick to a delivery-only format. “We don’t feel threatened by places like On the Border. That’s not our business model. With our burritos, if you’re working long hours and you want Mexican for lunch, you can do it.” Gringos also departs from fast-food in their use of locally-sourced and from-scratch ingredients such as Korean beef and tomatoes. Among the standouts on their menu was the breakfast burrito, with a cheesy, spicy, fluffy-egg filling in your choice of bacon or chorizo. Their fresh salsa is biting perfection, heavy on the onions and fresh tomato. Keeping an ear to what the expat customers are after, Gringos is eking out the details of a pulled pork burrito in addition to their current choices of chicken, steak and vegetarian.
France Gourmet: Three French guys met in Seoul and bonded over their passion for their home country’s gastronomy. Having training as food specialists (one in agronomy, another in delicatessen, the third a sommelier) they combined powers to create a business to offer fine French foods in the Seoul area. If you’re feeling fancy, or need an excuse to be fancy, France Gourmet offers pates, delicatessens (think lots of fancy rich meats, yum!) for delivery. You may be thinking French food will break the bank, but most menu items are under W20,000.
iHerb: Based in California, not in Korea, iHerb ships all over the world and their prices are significantly lower than most foreign food in Korea. iHerb specializes in health food, if that’s your thing. Go crunchy on their vitamins and supplements and raw food. It’s a good resource for nut butters, especially those fancy flavored peanut butters made by Peanut Butter & Co, pancake and waffle mix, dried fruit, and tea galore. You are also allowed one “freebie” with every order, with choices like organic lip balm. Free shipping to Korea is now offered on orders over USD $60.00.
Know of more food delivery services in Korea? Recommend them in the comments section.
Words and images by Charlotte Hammond