Cheap eats in Seoul: Kimbap Cheonguk

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Seoul is not a place to get cheap and quality food. Even street food can fetch US$3 per serving, which is roughly Php 120+! For Php 120, I can get a full meal back home, in Jollibee speak, that can be a two-piece chickenjoy with rice meal.

However, Seoul is food heaven and everything is quality. Even their street food look good and of course, clean. During our stay in Seoul, we can't always rely on street food and expensive meals - we had to find a way to get slightly cheaper grub. So we were very thankful that we've found Kimbap Cheonguk or Kimbap Heaven in Myeongdong area. Kimbap Cheonguk is a food chain that serves slightly cheaper meals compared to the 6,000 to 10,000 KRW per meal restaurants in the area. Of course, the store specializes in kimbap - in different types as well - and serves a variety of Korean dishes too.

The standard kimbap contains egg, ham, pickled radish, carrots, rice, and seaweed.

The store saved us thrice during our trip in Seoul. The first time was during our first day when we burned our wallets from that expensive meal at West n East. After our visit in hanok villages and palaces plus the frightening cable car trip to Namsan tower (and back), we decided to call it a day and buy takeout food from Kimbap Cheonguk. For our very late dinner, we had:

Tuna kimbap, 3,000 KRW

Cheese kimbap, 3,000 KRW

I love their kimbap! These were only made when we ordered so the rice was still hot and the seaweed crispy. My pet peeve when ordering maki or kimbap is the cold rice, which is not appetizing for me. Although the tuna is from canned tuna - I can't complain since it tastes so good!

The cheese kimbap, on the other hand, had melted cheese inside. My sister loved it but I still preferred the tuna kimbap, which also had a bit of mayonnaise for added flavor.

The second time that Kimbap Cheonguk saved us was after stalking Infinite's old dormitory in Mangwon. After getting lost and hungry, we decided to skip eating in the intimidating eatery near Infinite's dorm and envelop ourselves in the warmth of Kimbap Cheonguk. Har. Compared to the Myeongdong store, the Mangwon store had no menu with pictures. We were only presented with a list of dishes in Korean. My sister attempted to read the list and order Kimchi bokumbap for me and omelette for her but so far her order was the correct one - I got a strange rice combo with ketchup:

Rice topped with egg and mixed with other ingredients and ketchup, 4,500 KRW (Forgot the actual price)

Omelette doused with ketchup?!, 3,500 KRW (Forgot the actual price)

Our banchan or side dishes

I welcome the taste of spam so I had no issues with my meal. The rice also had some beans, sesame seeds, and vegetables topped with ketchup and egg. Imagine bibimbap getting a western take. That is what I got for lunch.

My sister's meal was strange. Instead of an omelette in curry, she tasted ketchup from the sauce. It tasted good though, but our expectations vs the reality did not exactly match. It was still a good meal.

The third time Kimbap Cheonguk saved us was during our trip to Nami Island. We had to bring some food for picnic in the island so kimbap was the answer. We bought:

Kimchi mandu, 4,000 KRW
Nude kimbap, 3,500 KRW

The nude kimbap is essentially a kimbap assembled like a california maki - but without the fish roe outside. It also had a bit of mayonnaise to enhance the flavor. No special ingredients in the kimbap though - it's just your standard kimbap assembled differently.

The kimchi mandu (dumpling) is the highlight of our picnic. It was made by hand and steamed to perfection with the wrapper soft and translucent. The filling had glass noodles and kimchi so after the first bite, the juicy filling burst in our mouth. So yummy!

Our Kimbap Cheonguk takeout ready for our Nami island picnic:


So for budget travellers going to Seoul, Kimbap Cheonguk is your friend. Available near you. :))

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