You may already know that food is a big part in culture. When I say Korea, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Probably kimchi right? If you’ve been to a Korean restaurant you know all the food, Samgyeopsal, Kimbap, Kalbitang but let’s step away from that for the next few minutes.
Let’s talk about snacks! Snacks are also a big part in what it’s like to live in Korea. The convenience store is packed with them, the marts are packed, even stationary stores have snacks. There’s even one holiday I know of dedicated to a snack. It’s peppero day. Peppero is made by lotte, and the closest thing that you may be familiar with is Pocky. We’ll talk about this snack some other day because it deserves a video or post of its own.
Now, when you go into the mart you may be overwhelmed by all the different types of snacks they have. They are definitely creative and I think a little more effort is put into making them cute. You may want to try them all, but you may not want to buy them all, unless of course you’re loaded with money. Since I’m not I’ve narrowed the choices down for you.
I’ve picked three snacks for now that I think are just enough of exploration, but safe enough that I think you’d like it.
My Chew 마이쮸
My Chew is cheap and sold in small or large portions. It’s not gum but like the name says it’s chewy. It’ll eventually dissolve in your mouth. They come in packs that look like sticks but once you open them they are just individually wrapped blocks.
If anything it’s very similar, if not the same thing as starburst candy. I chose the grape one but they have apple, peach and strawberry. Peach is actually my favourite flavour. If you’re a teacher in Korea then you should know students love My Chew. I think they’ve requested the grape flavour the most. Its great if candy is a reward for one of your activities. Like I said earlier, you can buy a big package and give each student a few, you can buy a three pack and do the same thing or a whole stick. Or you can just give a whole stick. If you’re really cheap you can break package in half and give each kid a half, but these kids know how much My Chew costs and even though they might be grateful they’ll think you’re cheap. Like super duper cheap.
With all that being said, My Chew has been around for awhile. And with people growing up with My Chew and knowing it since elementary school it’s a good start into Korean snacks and a small part of the culture. It’ll also be impressive if you know this snack.
Kancho is one of my favourite snacks. It’s made by Lotte and the packaging…well..how can you say no to that? It’s too cute. They have bigger packages with 4 packs inside but the packaging is more like a wrapper instead of a box. I get the box because it’s just more solid in the hands and you can open it a few different ways.
Kancho is pretty much a biscuit with chocolate inside. It’s hard but with a soft center. I like it because of the contrasting textures. On each of the biscuits you’ll find they’ve drawn a character. This is what I mean by effort. Most people probably don’t look at the snack while eating it, and even if you did, it doesn’t make it taste better. However it just looks better and doesn’t feel as cheap. Part of the experience is in how it looks.
While I was in Korea it didn’t seem like this snack was as popular as I’m hyping it up to be. A similar snack called home run ball was more popular among the locals. It’s almost the same thing but with a soft biscuit. Kind of like an éclair in mini form. I’m not a huge fan of éclair’s as most other people are, so that might be the cause of discrepancy. All in all, Kancho is another good snack. It’s delicious, cute, and the package is also well made. It makes for a great subtle gift if you like someone, it’s got a heart on it, and if the other person doesn’t like you, you can just brush it off and say it’s just a snack.
Jolly Pong 죠리퐁
Now this snack comes with a little more history. I’ll say what you’re thinking already. In North America this is a cereal. Post Sugar crisp cereal where in the commercials the bear can’t get enough of that sugar crisp! That takes you back right? If not, then you’re too young and I’m too old. Do they even still make that?
Back to the Jolly Pong. Back in the day, before my days, ajummas would sell these from their carts. Yes ajummas pushed their street vending carts around and sold (and still sell) quite a lot of stuff. This Jolly Pong is one of them, they’d sell it in big bags. Come to the present day and now it’s been promoted. It’s sold in what looks like a chip bag. So that may be a little confusing to some, it was confusing to me at first. I’m used to seeing this type of thing from a cardboard cereal box, where I can pour it and eat it with a spoon. How are you supposed to eat this like chips? Pick every single piece up?
It’s OK because the good people at Crown thought of that already. Inside the bag comes with a make your own spoon kit! Not so much a kit as it is a piece of cardboard. It’s quite neat actually. Fold it and stick it on your finger, and your finger becomes a shovel! Now you can shovel all that food down your mouth without feeling like entirely like a pig. There’s some sophistication there.
The snack itself is quite sweet, and it’s between crisp and soft. Again, if you’ve ever had sugar crisp its the same thing.
I picked this because of the history, and the interesting packaging. Like I said, Korean snacks have a lot of thought and effort put into them which makes them fun to eat. I think it’ll help you get into the Korean culture a little more. Now go out there and eat!