Okay, so maybe Ramen noodles won't become your best friend as a teacher in Korea, but every English teacher has to admit that sometimes the noodles are the best option for a meal. I cannot believe I just wrote that sentence, because before Korea, I was a Ramen snob. I looked down on the noodles and would not even consider eating them no matter how hungry I was. Things have changed and here' s why....
1. Korea does Ramen right. This is not the U.S. where you can only get one brand and one flavor at a supermarket. In Korea, there are hundreds of flavors, styles, and brands. It can actually be quite fun trying to find the one that suits your tastebuds.
2. Ramen is everywhere in Korea, and I do mean everywhere. Every supermarket, every convenient store, and every small cornerstore will carry at least a few kinds. I climbed Mount Halla, the largest mountain in Korea, a few months ago and close to the summit, there was a small shelter selling guess what? Ramen noodles....
3. The noodles really are the cheapest meal in town. The prices range from 600 won (~$.60) for the simplest kind to 3,000 won (~$3.00) for the fanciest. But if you buy in bulk at a supermarket, prices can be even lower than that. Now, we are paid well as English teachers at Chungdahm, but I will tell you a few times when cheap meal options have come in handy.
When you first arrive to Korea, you will have to work a month before you get paid your first paycheck. This means that you will have to support yourself during that first month on money from your U.S. (or Australian, Canadian, etc.) bank account. To make things cheaper on myself, I turned to Ramen.
Also, I try to keep a strict budget every month in order to save money, but sometimes a few days before my next monthly payday, I start to go over my budget. When that happens, I turn to Ramen to keep my costs down.
4. Last, Ramen can be healthy. Wait...what??? Okay so maybe not super healthy, but there are some ways to make it into a healthier, more satisfying meal. First, just eat the noodles and stay away from the soupy part. While some may claim it to be the best part, the soup is loaded with sodium and MSG. Second, add ingredients. I like to add eggs, vegetables, and various condiments (such as curry powders, chili flakes) to my noodles. If you do this, your noodles will be a much tastier, healthier, and heartier meal. In fact, if you have some good Ramen recipes, I would like to know...add a comment below on how you like to eat your Ramen!
Adam Montgomery is a 25-year old teacher at the Chungdahm Branch on Jeju. He has been teaching in Korea for under a year. When he is not teaching, he enjoys exploring the wonders of Jeju and Korea.