Monday, August 30, 2010

Foreign Rice Hunting and Tasting Taco Bell in Korea

Being a fish out of water I long for certain foods that I can use to make familiar and tasty meals at home. For example, I have been on the hunt for long-grain rice. Sure Korea has their hands full in all kinds of rice. I get to sample most of it at work when I eat the school lunches.

Varieties of Korean Rice Mixtures:
"Purple Rice" (흑미) (Name associations contributed from JH)

"Beany rice" (잡곡밥)

It is great that you don't get the same plop of white rice at every meal and that they mix the rice with beans and other grains. They also enjoy brown rice but I have never been served this at school. I did buy a bag of brown rice for home, but noticed it takes a long time to cook and has a different texture from the brown rice I am familiar with back in the States. 

Speaking of rice it is a staple of Korea and mostly all Asian countries. They consider it as part of the main meal and not a side dish. I told JH how in the west we consider rice to be just a side dish and usually meat or veggies becomes the main part of the dish. He scoffed at this.
Rice varieties:
Korean rice is centered on the short grain type. Back home I am use to eating the long grain types and really enjoy basmati rice.

Therefore I set out to the foreign food markets of Hannam and Itaewon in search of some long grain rices. What I found were a few surprises.

Hannam Foreign Food Supermarket:

It has been over a year since I last spent time down there and didn't know what to expect. Turns out there have been some changes. The back "supermarket" style side of the shop has been converted into a cafe. And the merchandise was moved to the front. Definitely the feel has been condensed and the amount of products drastically reduced. Maybe this is why it is called, "Hannam Dandy's Supermarket." hmmm
I am not sure what is going on with that cafe, since it wasn't open and the arrangement seems kind of strange. 

I did manage to find a very large bag of Thailand long-grain Jasmine rice. But it cost 50,000 Won! I wasn't quite ready to shell out that much for rice. 

I browsed around the rest of the shop and found a box of couscous for the reasonable price of 8,000 won. Afterwards we headed to Itaewon to see what the Foreign Food Market near the old What The Buck store (it moved) had for sale.

Foreign Food Market (Itaewon):
Just as the Hannam market reduced its space and stock it seems the Foreign Food Market in Itaewon expanded their stock. There was now an additional section inside for Thai and Vietnamese ingredients and items. 

The rice selection was a heck of a lot better, offering varieties of long-grain rice such as basmati and Thai. Yet the prices were in the same range. A large sack of Thai rice cost another 50,000 Won. However, they had smaller kilo bags in the back corner for much less. You could pick up a smaller sack for 10,000 - 15,000 Won. I chose both Thai and basmati to check out which ones I would like most.

I figured that after I come back to Korea to start a new job in March I will go out and buy the 50,000 Won sack, which will be better than buying the mini-sacks. Who knows, maybe I can even share it with friends.

Taste of Taco Bell in Korea:
It's old news now but Taco Bell opened up in Itaewon several months ago and at first there were lines out the door, but now things have calmed down. 

The thing is out of all the choices you have in Itaewon making Taco Bell one of them is probably not really worth it. There are great Indian, Turkish and modern cuisine restaurants to find. However, I would say that visiting the Taco Bell just once would make your Itaewon trip well rounded. This is because it is fun to see Korean people trying a different kind of cuisine. 

I took JH there because I wanted him to get the experience and try out the taste. 
I ordered for JH, selecting the "Stuffed Chicken Burrito" for him and the "Fiesta Chicken Burrito" and "Taco Supreme" for myself. 
Turns out he didn't really like his burrito noting that he was not interested in the re-fried beans inside.
However, he liked my "Fiesta burrito" a lot better and so we made a swap. 

The overall taste was genuinely Taco Bell and the prices were good. Service was excellent too and there felt like no delays. I guess they have their act together now since opening. One thing I discovered is that if you want the hot sauces you need to ask for them when picking up your order, otherwise there is just ketchup packets to take. 

Unless I get an incredible craving for Taco Bell I don't find myself going there again. I still find Dos Tacos to be a lot tastier and fun to go to. What's your favorite Mexican inspired restaurant in Korea?


  1. As someone who doesn't make it to Seoul very often, I do like "Haddon House" Supermarket for my comfort foods such as Big Red cola and Kellogg's sugary cereals from the little market above it. They also have turkey breasts if you don't want to get a whole bird.

    It located at Oksu-dong Hannam Heights Apt. B1. They have free deilvery in the U.N. village area around there and even gave me a free car ride down to the subway station at Oksu after I spent a good chunk of change. The staff is very well-mannered and they go out of their way to help you.

    They are open from 8:30am to 9pm everyday with free parking. The telephone number is 794-0511 if you want to call and see if they have what you need in stock.

  2. Heya...I stumbled on your blog...I've also been looking for long grain rice ever since I got to Seoul. Just got here last week! I'll try the Basmati rice.

    Like your blog!

  3. Thanks staritza.

    Yea sometimes I really miss the smell of fragrant basmati rice coming from the kitchen.


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