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How to get Foreign Food in Korea

Updated on June 16, 2015

All the inside information to help you get the foreign food you need in Korea

Koreans eat a lot of Kimchi and rice, but not much Western stuff can be found in their diets. If a Korean wants to eat Italian food, they'll go out to a restaurant but probably won't cook it at home. Same for almost any other type of Western food. So, it can be difficult to find what you're looking for to cook Western food in South Korea.

If you live in Seoul, you can just go to the foreign food markets in Itaewon. But outside of Seoul? It's can be almost impossible to find the foreign food that you're looking for. Almost, but not quite. There really is hope for those expats teaching English in Korea to find what they want without having to search endlessly. You can get cheese, cilantro, turkey, salsa and so many other things that you can't find at your local supermarket.

If you're a vegan or vegetarian in Korea, it's not that easy because many things, including many side-dishes have meat or seafood in them. Additionally, Koreans don't really seem to understand the concept of vegetarian and will do things like include Spam in Sushi rolls or something like that when you ask for one with no meat. Anyway, do not worry! Just order your vegan ingredients from Iherb and cook at home.

south korea, high street market, itaewon,  food, meat, cheese, where to get foreign food, foreign food in korea, foreigners in Korea
south korea, high street market, itaewon, food, meat, cheese, where to get foreign food, foreign food in korea, foreigners in Korea

Itaewon's High Street Market

The best choice for deli meat and specialty meat

If you're in the Itaewon area of Seoul, but sure to check out High Street Market. It is the BEST place in Korea to get all the fresh meats, turkey cheeses, specialty grains and beans, delicious sandwiches and deli meats that you could possibly want. One of my favorite things is that they have a large variety of grains and specialty nuts, seeds, etc that you can buy in bulk. Just like back home in North America! And, you can order almost all of their stuff online too, if you don't live in Seoul.

High Street Market Itaewon

my-costco-korea.jpg
my-costco-korea.jpg

My Costo Korea

Another of the Costco re-sellers, My Costco Korea seems to be one of the best. Their prices are quite reasonable, it ships the next day and you can pay via Paypal if you don't have a Korean bank account set up yet. Cheese, deli meats, avocados, snacks and candy from America. They have it all!

indian-shop-korea.jpg
indian-shop-korea.jpg

Indian Shop Korea

Thanksgiving and Christmas Turkeys too!

If you're looking for vegetarian food such as beans and lentils, or any kind of Indian food or spices, check out The Indian Shop. In addition, they have cheap(ish) frozen turkeys that are perfect for Thanksgiving or Christmas celebrations in Korea.

namdaemun market, central seoul, shopping korea, foreign food korean, import food korea
namdaemun market, central seoul, shopping korea, foreign food korean, import food korea

Namdaemun Market: an impressive selection of import goods

Namdaemun Market in central Seoul has a few markets with a good selection of import goods. It's especially impressive for hard to find alcohols. You can stop at any of the tourist information booths around the area and ask for directions from the helpful English-speaking staff, or follow the ones below:

Directions:

1.Daedo Jonghap Market) Exit Hoeyhyeon Stn. (line 4, ex. 6) and turn right, heading into the market. Daedo Market is an orange building about 150m down on the right side.

2.An easy to find import vendor can be found if you enter the market from Gate 1, which would be the gate right by Namdaemun Gate. Walk straight into the market and you'll see 2-3 vendors on the right side.

little-manila-seoul.jpg
little-manila-seoul.jpg

Little Manila: Hyewha Station

Every Sunday from late morning-late afternoon there is an amazing Philippine Market near Hyewha Station (go out Exit 1, and walk straight to the Rotary). There is plenty of import food to buy, and delicious Philippine food to sample while you're there. It's definitely worth a trip to experience another culture, all without leaving Korea.

Where do you get foreign food in Korea?

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south korea, foreign food market, itaewon,  food, meat, cheese, where to get foreign food, foreign food in korea, foreigners in Korea
south korea, foreign food market, itaewon, food, meat, cheese, where to get foreign food, foreign food in korea, foreigners in Korea

The Foreign Food Market in Itaewon

Anything and everything expat food can be found here, including fresh cilantro!

This seems to be the best choice for those who like browsing. While expensive, I've never left this place empty-handed of what I was looking for in the dry goods realm. Most impressive!

Directions? Walk down the main street on Itaewon and turn right at the fire station. Keep walking past the King Club and on your left you will find Foreign Food Mart. TEL: (02) 793-0082

The Foreign Food Market: Rip-Off or not?

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dandy's-seoul.jpg
dandy's-seoul.jpg

Dandy's at Hangangjin Station

This place has a full deli and random, hard-to-find items. They are near Itaewon, but you can get there from Hangangjin Station, Exit 2.

Go straight and cross the footbridge to the other side of the intersection. Look for the Volvo building and the giant bowling pin. It's hidden in the basement.

haddon-supermarket-seoul.jpg
haddon-supermarket-seoul.jpg

Haddon Supermarket

Haddon Supermarket is not that easy to get but they have a better selection than the other foreign markets in Itaewon.

To get there, take the subway to Oksu station (line 3 and the Jungang line) and go out exit 4. Take Maeul bus 09 three stops or so to the Okjeong Middle school/GS Gas Station stop (okjeong junghakgyo/GS juyuso). The stop is just after the bus gets to the top of the hill and turns right. Get off the bus and turn right (go back in the opposite direction the bus goes after it turns right). Cross the street the bus just came up and walk 100 meters or so up the street. The supermarket is on the left in the basement of the Hannam Heights apt. complex. No real sign outside, so you have to poke around to find the entrance. Phone number is 02 794 0511. Good English spoken at the store. They're open 8:30 AM to 9 PM 365 days a year.

Gmarket

South Korea's Amazon

Gmarket is the number one online retailer in Korea. You can find everything and anything on this site, from a variety of sellers, for a variety of prices. If you're looking for the truly unique foreign food item, chances are you can probably find it here. Or, if you want Costco items without actually traveling to Costco, you can search for them here.

It's surprisingly easy to sign up and use the site. When you're signing up, just make sure that you enter your name EXACTLY as it appears on your Alien Registration Card (all caps, etc). And when you're ordering, there is an English site you can use. However, a little bit of Korean could go a long way to make sure you order the exact thing that you want, etc.

I use this site to order cat food and kitty litter. It's far cheaper than buying it from the local pet-store or Emart. I've also ordered some unusual food items as well.

south korea, songtan, black market, songtan black market food, meat, cheese, where to get foreign food, foreign food in korea, foreigners in Korea
south korea, songtan, black market, songtan black market food, meat, cheese, where to get foreign food, foreign food in korea, foreigners in Korea

Songtan black markets

For those south of Seoul in the market for all things American Food and Liquor

If you're looking for goods fresh off the US military base at a reasonable price, Songtan should be your first stop. It's South of Seoul on Line 1. They have an extensive selection of cheap liquor, processed meats and cheeses, junk foods, cleaning products and beauty supplies. Anything and everything actually!

Directions:

Take the subway to Songtan Station. Take a quick taxi ride to the "main gate" Walk away from the main gate down the main street. Cut into the side streets on your right, across from Mcdonalds. Search around in all the side streets, as there are many Grey Market Shops

ansan-foreign-food.jpg
ansan-foreign-food.jpg

Ansan Station: get your Foreign Food in South Korea

Ansan Station, on Seoul subway line 4, is packed with multicultural food shops and supermarkets. You'll wonder if you're in South-East Asia, or Korea. Come with an empty stomach to check out the eats and an empty backpack to fill up with everything foreign food. To get there, just take the underpass to the "Multicultural Street" and the world is your oyster. There are some helpful maps on the street to assist you in finding what you're looking for.

south korea, foreign food market, costco  food, meat, cheese, where to get foreign food, foreign food in korea, foreigners in Korea
south korea, foreign food market, costco food, meat, cheese, where to get foreign food, foreign food in korea, foreigners in Korea

Costco: everything processed food in South Korea!

This is the ultimate in Western goodness to be found in Korea! Cheese, meat, alcohol, snack foods, avocados and tortillas. Costco seems to have it all, as well as a most delicious slice of pizza from the cafeteria. The only downside is that you'll have to buy a membership, which is 35 000 Won. And, they only have stores in certain places: Daejeon, Seoul, Daegu, Ilsan and Busan.


What do you miss most from home?

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south korea, emart
south korea, emart

Emart/Homeplus/Lotte Mart

If you live in a town of any considerable size, you'll probably have all three of these. These places do indeed have some Western goods, but it's just a matter of finding them. Walk down every aisle and make a mental note of what they carry and where you can find it. Do the same at the other stores. And if there's a dry good that you love, that is a rare find, buy it all because stuff at these stores is often here today and gone tomorrow. I've found: cheese, bagels and cream cheese, sausage, spices, tabasco sauce, tortillas, cilantro, USA pasta sauce, nacho chips, etc, etc, etc.

EZ Shop Korea

Costco Food delivered to your door

This is another of the online retailers catering to foreigners in Korea. They have lots of things that the Nice Market doesn't, so compare between the two if you are looking for something specific. Also, the Nice Deli ships only on Fridays, while this place ships everyday, so if you need something in a hurry this might be your choice.

EZ Shop Korea

maharaba-market-itaewon.jpg
maharaba-market-itaewon.jpg

Itaewon: Maharaba Market

This place is near the Foreign Food Market in Itaewon and carries similar products. I like to shop here though because they're friendlier and the prices are often 1000-2000 Won cheaper.

Directions from Itaewon Station, Exit 3:

Walk straight and take a right at Dunkin' Donuts. Go up the hill. Go past the Foreign Food Market and take a left at the next street and you'll see it.

foreign-food-korea.jpg
foreign-food-korea.jpg

The Local "Foreign Food" Market

In almost every medium or large town in Korea, there is a foreign food market of some sort. The name is often "Asia Mart" or "World Food." They're most often located around train stations or bus terminals. They cater to migrant workers from other parts of Asia. However, there are usually some nice finds at these places.

For example, they often have a nice selection of import beer at reasonable prices. My favorite is Beer Laos. They'll also have dried beans, cilantro, oatmeal and Lipton Tea.

Just keep your eyes open next time you're out and about in your town.

homebrew.jpg
homebrew.jpg

Make your own bread, yogurt and beer

Since I've come to Korea, I've started making all these things. It's actually quite simple to do once you have the right set-up.

Beer: we call know that Cass and Hite are not delicious, and in fact downright nasty. It almost makes me shudder to actually drink them. But, it's actually quite easy to make your own!

Bread: it's very simple to make bread if you have a bread machine. You can order one online from Gmarket, or the Nice Deli. Look online for some recipes and you're on your way to delicious bread! I get specialty flours and grains online from the Nice Deli.

Yogurt: it's also one of those things that is so simple to make if you have a machine. Just add milk and a bit of yogurt to get the bacteria going. Leave overnight in the machine and wake up in the morning to delicious, home-style yogurt. Mmmm.

Where do you usually eat in Korea?

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