I love to eat. While I would not consider myself a foodie, as a teacher in South Korea I am always excited to try new things. Yet, because of this, I am put in an interesting situation when it comes to our working hours. It should come as no surprise that we work different hours (I work till 10:30pm most nights) than what would be expected back home. I am here to offer a few tips on late night dining options.
First, accept that many places you would go to during the day are probably going to be closed around midnight. Take this a both a blessing and a curse. Looking optimistically, this means you get to really test your stomach, and I don’t just mean by eating different food. I know that as I write this almost every place that I would go for food is already closed, except McDonalds. This means that I get to put my copper-stomach up against corner stores or street food.
Let me make this very clear: I love street food. Fry it, grill it, steam it, but serve it up to me on the street and I am the happiest person in the world. I cannot say how many times I have left work and gone straight to the nearest street vendor so I might be able to get some delicious, greasy food. This brings me to my second beauty about late night food. STREET VENDORS!!!
Yes, my doctor said it’s bad for me. Yes, I know it’s very greasy. Yes, I know it’s not nutritious. I don’t care! Street food is still my comfort food of choice. When I want to fight off homesickness I will go for the nearest street vendor. This is one of the things that makes Korea a great place to work and teach: the easy access to street food and all night eating options.
Now I realize—every so often—that street food is not the best for me, so I turn to plan B: 24 hour fast food restaurants. I do not feel bad about eating a McDonalds at midnight after a long day at work; in fact it’s a great bonding experience with fellow co-workers. I come from America: the land of the free and the home of the Supersize, so this might be blasphemous, but I think McDonalds tastes better here. Yet, there is a slight problem, a Big Mac here is actually smaller than one back home. While it might still taste great, it is lacking in the quantity of meat division.
Even with the lackluster meat size, McDonalds here has one thing here than is greatly needed back home: 24hr delivery! I cannot say how much this has changed my life, both for good and for waist size. Some nights I will order McDonalds at work to enjoy during our dinner break, or I might take some home with me to enjoy after a long day at work.
I realize that street food and fast food might not be your cup of tea, and so I will propose a third option for those craving a late night snack choice: the (in)famous corner store. I do not need to walk far to get to a GS25, Sun Mart, or 7-11 and grab a quick bite to eat. When I first arrived, I ate most of my meals from the corner stores. However these meals will come at a cost, not to your wallet but to your stomach.
There are a variety of food options at corner stores from the traditional bag of chips to the exotic microwave chicken. It will help greatly if you are able to read Hangeul but, if you cannot, here is a simple tip. If it is a triangle or wrapped like a sushi roll, it’s probably safe. If it looks like it’s been sitting there for a few days, or it could have rolled in the hot-dog roller for weeks, then let it pass you by. Here is the one catch: AVOID THE MICROWAVE CHICKEN!! It upset my stomach to such a degree that I dare not share them here.
Let me just say, that with a work schedule where we get done around 10pm, dining becomes an experience in and of itself. So I suggest you sit back, enjoy, and bring TUMS with you, just in case. Bon appetite.
Max Brodsky was born and raised in Colorado and he is currently teaching in Cheonan, Korea. Realizing that a degree in English from Colorado State University will lead him to teaching or writing, he decided to head over to Korea to test the waters before jumping in. Max found that he loves every minute he gets to spend in the classroom teaching and has found a wealth of writing material. He is excited for this year abroad. Follow Max to see how teaching affects him over the year!