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Cooking in South Korea

Updated: Apr 18, 2022

"We got food at home."

I know this phrase brings back memories for a lot of us. IYKYK. It hits different when it's your money though...

Everybody loves to talk about how good the food is in Korea and it is! What you don't hear about is people cooking at home... Let me tell you.

First. The Gas.

The first time I tried to cook in my apartment I literally had to YouTube how to turn on the stove. I turned the nob a good 15 times before I had to question my intelligence and turn to the internet. In South Korea, you first have to turn a nob attached to a pipe to turn on the gas. THEN, you can turn the nob on the actual stove and the flame will come on. I thought back to all the apartment tour vlogs I watched and not nan person talked about that. Nobody forgot to mention the self explanatory key pad on the door though 🙄

Prior to moving to Korea I had never really experienced a gas stove, but living abroad shows you a lot about the way other people live around the world. Gas stoves are extremely common, but that just wasn't the case for me. I was accustomed to electric stoves that showed they were hot by turning red, not with an actual flame. Really immersing yourself in another culture and way of life will have you learning things you didn't even know you didn't learn. It's humbling to say the least.

Second. Appliances.

There's only 2 eyes. Now, I do have to give credit to the vloggers on this one. They definitely warned me about the small stove with only two eyes. I'm used to having a pan for my meat, a pot for my starch, a pan for my vegetables and maybe another pot just for fun. Not possible here. Living in an efficiency apartment meant everything was pretty much downsized, but it's not the end of the world. To be honest, it shows you how much you DON'T need.

Studio apartments are small by nature and are made for one or two people at the most. From a small stove to the (almost) mini fridge, things are just itty bitty. For reference, my fridge was shorter than me and I'm only 5'3. Having a small fridge actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It forced me to buy fresh food and significantly decreased the amount of things that wound up just sitting in the back of the fridge growing hair. Going to the grocery store became a part of my weekly routine and I honestly enjoyed it.

After a few months, I became a self proclaimed pro at one pan meals and perfectly timing when to cook different things. In the beginning, I definitely had times when one thing was scorching hot and another was room temp or even cool. You might be asking, "Well why didn't you just microwave it again?" That leads me to point number 3.

Third. Lack of Appliances.

No oven. No microwave. No toaster. No Easy Bake Oven. That’s right. Just two eyes on a stove. Oven? Haven't heard that name in a while. Microwave? Sorry to that man.

Anybody that knows me knows I'm the queen of leftovers. I can never finish my food from restaurants or when I cook myself. Using a microwave can be a daily occurrence, but what do you do when you no longer have one? Adapting is a requirement when living abroad and this is a prime example of that.

Five dollar take out here in Korea can literally last me 3 meals. How I warm up my food? On those handy dandy eyes. I've warmed up leftover soup in a pan and I'm not embarrassed. It was hot wasn't it? I do what I have to do.

Cooking in Korea is a balancing act and I often miss the counter space at my house in Connecticut, but it's all part of the experience. On that note... Let me figure out where I'm getting take out from tonight 😋

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Unknown member
Oct 14, 2020

@QueenRiley Definitely! I can eat what is seemingly a big meal and not feel heavy or lethargic afterwards like in the States. Things are much more farm to table overall.


Can you recognize a difference in food quality when traveling? Not just in South Korea but everywhere you've gone. Has there been an increase in fresh foods vs. fast foods?

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