Food Swaps- Small Changes To Make A Big Difference

I am a total foodie- I love cooking, going out for meals and trying new things. I also care about being healthy and putting good, clean, fresh food into my body. But despite trying to be healthy the majority of the time, I also hate to deprive myself of things which I love. For this reason, I try to make small changes to make so called ‘naughty’ foods that much healthier.

Here are some of my favourite food alterations which make a big difference, so that  you can enjoy delicious foods completely guilt-free!

  • Spaghetti → Vegetable-etti
4617278380_bd6e02b499_z
Picture: Jessica Mullen flickr

I swear, the spiralizer must be one of the best inventions ever (for food lovers that is).

The most popular vegetable to spiralize is courgette (zucchini) but you can use most other vegetables if you’d prefer. It is so quick and easy to make, and if you don’t have a spiralizer you can simply cut the vegetable julienne style, or use a peeler to get a similar effect.

This simple food swap makes for a much lower-calorie, low-carb meal, but you can still have the fun of twirling your food onto your fork like spaghetti!

Let’s be honest, most of the taste in a pasta meal comes from the sauce and toppings anyway, right? This way, you can get the same taste for a fraction of the calories. Sounds good to me!

  • Rice → Quinoa
Picture: flickr
Picture: Geoff Peters flickr

Rice is by no means unhealthy, but white rice has a very high GI, meaning that it can causes your sugar levels to rise quickly, but then to crash to a low level, leaving you feeling hungry shortly after you’ve eaten.

The solution? Eat quinoa. Not only does it have a much lower GI, but it also contains more fibre than other grains and up to 8 grams of protein, meaning that it will keep you fuller for much longer.

It is also high in amino acids and it’s gluten free- really, you should be asking why you don’t eat quinoa.

  • Potato → Sweet Potato (and Chips → Sweet Potato Chips)
2246081241_8ebd02e75f_b
Picture: John Blyberg flickr

For me, this is another no-brainer.  Sweet potatoes not only have much more flavour than plain potatoes, but they have many added health benefits.  They’re high in Vitamins (200 grams of sweet potato has more than twice your daily recommended intake for Vitamin A and half of your Vitamin C) and contain high levels of iron, magnesium and potassium.

Oh and despite having more taste than regular potatoes, sweet potatoes actually contain fewer calories and lower levels of carbs. Plus, as they are high in fibre, they will keep you fuller longer.

So next time you’re buying potatoes, go for the sweet version- you won’t regret it!

  • Burgers/ Sandwich Wraps → Lettuce Wraps
5639486398_8b768d5b17_z
Picture:  Steven Depolo flickr

This is one of my favourite methods to make a meal instantly healthier while saving the taste: it is the easiest way to save on hundreds of calories and to make your meal carb-free at the same time.

By taking away the bread part of the meal, you lose none of the delicious taste of the filling, and you’ll lose that bloated feeling you get afterwards. Plus you still get the feeling of eating a real burger/sandwich because it’s still wrapped up nicely in lettuce.

Try it and believe me, you won’t regret it.

  • Crisps → Vegetable Crisps
2228891323_d415d2396a_z
Picture: rjp flickr

If you are a snacker and can’t resist the temptation of crisps, this is another easy substitution to save calories and load up on nutrients.

Veggie crisps are lower calorie, lower fat versions of the classic potato snack, but they still give you the same satisfaction.

The most popular version at the moment is Kale Crisps, which contain as few as 100 calories per bag, are gluten free and of course, full of vitamins and minerals.

To make this snack even healthier, make it yourself! Simply slice up your favourite veggies thinly, drizzle them with olive oil, add any seasoning (although watch it with the salt!) and then bake them in the oven until they’re crispy. Adding chilli is a favourite of mine because it gives the crisps a little kick. Mmmm.

  • Fizzy Drinks → Sparkling Water + Fruit
Lemonade_(Lime_version)
Picture:  Michael Fludkov common.wikimedia

Ok, so we all know how unhealthy fizzy drinks are- full of added sugar, artificial sweeteners, too much caffeine and additives- and the sugar-free versions are just as bad for you.

I used to be a diet-coke addict, until I realised that it was giving me headaches and wreaking havoc with my sugar levels. So, I  made a change.

I know that sparkling water on it’s own isn’t the most pleasant thing, but honestly once I got used to it, I began to enjoy it. Plus, adding some lemon, lime or any other fruit of your choice adds so much flavour that it actually becomes pleasant to drink!

Top tip- chop up the fruit/s of your choice and put them in a pitcher of sparkling water for about an hour for the flavour to fully develop. Keep the pitcher in the fridge so it’s nice and cool when you drink it.

Whether you want to cut out the empty calories from drinking too much soda, or avoid the unhealthy additives, this is the easy solution for you.

  • Tuna + Mayonnaise → Tuna + Avocado
Picture: nomnompaleo
Picture: nomnompaleo

Regular mayonnaise is full of unhealthy fats- nearly 80 g per 100 grams and high in calories- over 700 kcal in 100 grams.

Avocado on the other hand has less than 200 kcal in 100 grams and less than 20 g of fat. If this doesn’t already persuade you, then you should know that avocados are full of healthy fats, a good source of protein and fibre, and are low in sugar.

So how about next time you fancy tuna mayonnaise, mix the tuna with some avocado instead- you will get the same creamy texture and rich taste, but minus the unwanted fat and calories.

  • Tuna + Mayonnaise → Tuna + Natural/ Greek Yoghurt
Picture: en.wikipedia
Picture: en.wikipedia

For anyone who doesn’t like avocados, here is another easy substitution for the dreaded mayonnaise.

Find a natural/ Greek yoghurt to mix with your tuna instead. Yoghurt contains less than 130 kcal per 100 grams but will still provide the same texture that mayonnaise does.

Just make sure you don’t buy a yoghurt which has too much added sugar; go for as natural as you can!

  • Deep-fried Spring Rolls → Rice Wrap Rolls
Picture:
Picture: Vanessa Do flickr

There’s no denying that spring rolls are delicious, but because they’re deep-fried the calorie value automatically increases.

An easy way to counter this? Go for rice-wrap rolls instead. This way, you can still enjoy the taste and delightful fillings but for half the calories (and less fat content too).

Finally, a way to enjoy takeaway guilt-free!

  • Ice Cream → Banana Ice Cream
Picture: en.wikipedia
Picture: en.wikipedia

Ok, this takes a little effort, but only a little, I promise. And the easy subsitution means that you can enjoy ice cream which is low-calorie, low-fat and low-sugar, which is pretty amazing in my opinion.

All you have to do is cut up some bananas and freeze them. When they’re frozen, blend them- this can take a little time, but persevere, it’s worth it in the end! When they have blended into a creamy mix, simply mix in whatever other ingredients you like! Peanut butter, cacao powder, cinnamon, fruit, honey, nutella (if you’re feeling a bit naughty).

Voilla! Healthy ice cream… who would’ve thought it!

  • Flavoured Yoghurt → Plain/ Greek Yoghurt with Fruit/ Cinnamon/ Cacao
Picture: en.wikipedia
Picture: en.wikipedia

Shop-bought yoghurt can be full of sugar, artificial flavourings, additives, etc. So, why not buy natural yoghurt and flavour it yourself? It couldn’t be easier.

Buy some natural yoghurt (as I said before, make sure there isn’t loads of added sugar) and then simply add what you like. If you’re a cinnamon lover like myself, I would recommend this for a start! It adds delicious flavour to the yoghurt, but it’s much healthier and lower in calories.

If you have the time, you can also add fruit a little in advance so that the flavour properly sinks in. Another quick, easy option for a healthy dessert.

  • Milkshakes → Yoghurt/ Fruit Shakes
Picture: en.wikipedia
Picture: en.wikipedia

Yes, it’s tempting sometimes when you walk past a McDonald’s or a cafe and you really fancy a refreshing milkshake, but you just know how calorific and full of sugar and fat they are.

So, why don’t you make your own healthy version? Use yoghurt or milk instead of ice cream, real fruit instead of flavoured syrups, and you can even add your own touches such as honey or peanut butter if you wish.

This way, not only do you avoid the rubbish, but you can actually increase your fruit intake. It’d be a crime not to…

These are some of my favourite ways to avoid over-indulging and to still enjoy my favourite foods.

And I have one last tip which works in numerous different recipes to substitute sugar- use my favourite new ingredient, the increasingly popular Stevia. While I’ve found that in it’s powder form it can have a bit of an odd after-taste, there is a liquid version which is just amazing.

now_foods_stevia_drops
Picture: bh.steviadomain

I mainly use this to add to my porridge but you can use it however you like- add it to baking, coffee, smoothies, whatever you like. It’s available from www.iherb.com, and comes in many different flavours. In case you were wondering, vanilla and cinnamon is my favourite!

I hope this has given you some ideas of how to make your food healthier and cut back on calories, but not on flavour. Happy eating! 

Beauty: The Eternal Question

Picture: instantcinema.over-blog
instantcinema.over-blog
20120406074514Miranda-Kerr-Picture
irishcentral
Halle_Berry_10
en.wikipedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grace Kelly. Miranda Kerr. Halle Berry. What do these three have in common? They are all famously beautiful women, celebrated for their incredible good looks, idolised by millions.

Beauty is everywhere, and it is something which plagues everyone in one way or another. It is an ever-present issue in society, even more so now due to social media: filtered images on Instagram, the rise of the selfie (or belfie if you’d prefer), Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter the list goes on. Millions of people trying to put their beauty out there for the world to see by posting flattering, posed photos. Social media also means that there are more images than ever of beautiful celebrities out there on display, serving only to make people feel inadequate about themselves.

The real question which bothers me is ‘what is beauty’. It is something which has such a presence in our lives, yet what actually is it? It is ever changing, that’s for sure: take weight, for example- hundreds of years ago, oversize women were considered beautiful, but fast-forward to the noughties and the image of beauty has completely changed into being an emaciated size-zero.

Everybody has different ideas of beauty: which do you think more attractive, curvaceous blonde bombshell Marilyn or skinny elegant Audrey?

GPI KathyChat Audrey Hepburn
Picture: greatplacesinc
Barris_Marilyn_Monroe
Picture: en.wikipedia

So if beauty is a subjective thing, then why are we always trying to better ourselves? Why do people continually strive towards something which is so artificial and unreliable: for what could one moment be considered beautiful could change instantly.

What made me start thinking about this was moving to Korea. The reason? I have been called beautiful more times during the past 18 months than the past 24 years in England. And before you think this is a completely arrogant statement I want to say that it is not by any means just me- every Western girlfriend of mine has received the same treatment. It is an almost daily compliment from students, and not only from people we know but from random people you meet in the street or in shops. In England, this would only happen if you were a supermodel, or perhaps a Mila Kunis lookalike. In Korea, it’s simply because you’re Western.

I’m under no illusion that my looks are in any way special, it just happens to be that some of my features are those wich Korean people desire, and so their automatic reaction is to think you’re good looking. The same thing happens with my boyfriend; he is over six foot, and as this is something which the Koreans greatly admire, he is continually noticed and called handsome.

It is exactly this treatment which has made me realise what a strange and pointless thing beauty is. In many ways it’s just a projection of our own insecurities, where we are conditioned to find features which we don’t have as beautiful.

Picture: en.wikipedia
Picture: en.wikipedia

It’s no secret that plastic surgery levels are sky high in Korea. It has been stated that one in five Korean women get surgery, and it is apparent that many more want to have it. My students who are only 12 years old openly discuss their desire to get double-eyelid surgery when they’re older. With double eyelid glue and tape being sold, not only in cosmetic stores but convenience stores such as CU, it’s no surprise that girls feel the pressure to change their looks.

I also find it shocking and disturbing how quickly my teenage students call themselves, and their friends for that matter, ‘ugly’. It is clear that self esteem among girls is at an all time low, and why? Because their idea of beauty goes against the inherent image of their race. Many of the K Pop singers and celebrities look almost Western because they have had so much surgery, and this is the image which younger girls strive towards.

jessica__snsd__png_render_by_classicluv-d6ar50j
Picture: en.wikipedia

From a Westerners point of view? I see so many things which are enviable about Korean girls: perfect, even skin tone, thick glossy hair, their naturally slim figures and incredibly fast metabolisms (which I am so jealous of by the way). So this just proves my point; we quite often just seem to want what we don’t have.

So, what’s my point to all this? I guess being here has just made me realise just how subjective beauty is. It is always changing, over time and between different cultures. Skinny, curvy, blonde, brunette, pale, tanned, tall, short, made-up, natural. Beauty is little more than just another trend which people follow. And what one person finds beautiful, another will find ugly.

So when I see people here, almost brainwashed into thinking one thing is beautiful, it just seem absolutely ridiculous. There isn’t only one type of beauty, so stop trying to conform, to follow the crowd, to change yourself into something that you’re not. Instead, it’s time to ignore the pressures of society and to appreciate your own looks, to feel comfortable in your own skin.

Most importantly, remember that there are far more important things in life which are lasting and real. Beauty is just an illusion, and what is thought to be beautiful one moment could change the next.

bette-davis-mirror-skeffington
Picture: forums.tcm

 

 

“A woman is beautiful when she’s loved, and only then”.

Mr Skeffington.

Living Life The Korean Way

I’ve been living in Korea for 18 months now, enough time to get over the initial culture shock and to adapt to living the Korean lifestyle. There have been both good things- going out for dinner and getting a delicious, filling meal for under £5, and bad- fearing for your life every time you are on/ near the road because of the crazy drivers.

Here are some of the things I have become accustomed to during the last year and a half in  Korea- the good, the bad and everything in between…

  • Luxury Buses

313474_10200220473307455_609596400_n 483842_10200220497588062_1669243773_n

Our first impression of Korea was pretty good- getting onto the bus to head to Wonju, we were amazed at how nice it was. Comfy, reclining seats with a proper footrest… and check out the leg room!

And not only comfy but cheap- £12 for a 3 hour trip. Even better, a normal hour-and-a-half trip to the capital city is only £6 on the day. Can you imagine getting to London for that price?

The only downside to the buses- no toilet. This is definitely something you have to get used to, and isn’t the best when you get stuck in traffic for 3 hours…bad times indeed.

  •  Sushi

429676_10151642263694305_499498651_n 999311_10151820714014305_2065649275_n

Calling all sushi lovers- Korea is the place for you. The plate pictured above cost under £6 and was just a dream! The pick-and-mix nigri, also pictured, is only 500 won per piece- roughly 30 p. In England, 2 pieces of nigri are often about £2.

It’s been 18 months, and I still can’t get over how amazing it is. The one downside? Too many sushi-comas from overeating the stuff.

  •  Soju
Soju_jinro_gfdl
Picture: Wikipedia

Forget about wine and cocktails (unless you’re in Seoul/ want to pay a fortune for alcohol). The favourite drink among Koreans is Soju, a clear spirit which people drink alone as a shot or added to beer.

It takes some getting used to, seeing hikers drinking Soju at the top of a mountain, or downing it on trains at 10 in the morning- but while in England this could be taken as a worrying sign of alcoholism, it is simply the culture in Korea.

But watch out your first time drinking the stuff. Koreans can down Soju like it’s water, but Westerners… not so much. Let’s just say expat stories of their Soju experiences don’t always have the best endings…

  •  Sharing food
anigif_enhanced-24550-1408043930-1
Via: patdiye

So, much like Joey from Friends, I’m not a food sharer. Especially with my boyfriend who inhales food so quickly it’s hard to get a bite before it’s all gone! No, I like my meals to be my own, so I can eat how much I want at at my own pace.

But this is pretty impossible in Korea- in most restaurants the food comes in one big dish like soup, or on a barbecue for everyone to cook together and share. And, I suppose I have learnt to share my food… though that’s not to say I haven’t had arguments over who gets the last bite!

  •  Coffee

208516_10151630108769305_1474039410_n

You know how you go to a cafe, order a coffee and then add a bit of milk? Quite simple yes? In Korea- not so much. Coffee is either a black Americano, or white Latte. Trying to ask for an Americano and just a bit of milk leads to absolute confusion, as I’ve found out on many occasions. And don’t even get me started on trying to ask for a little milk to add to your tea…

  •  Cafes

48130_10151674853674305_1040517511_n

Leading on from coffee, comes cafes. You know that glare you get from the servers when you overstay your welcome at a cafe- when you’ve only bought one small cup of tea but have stayed for hours? Well, you never get that here.

It seems like it’s the norm to stay half a day in the cafes- bring along study materials, sit back and watch a movie on your I Pad, no one will bother you. The cafes are even open much later here, often until 9 or 10 pm… it’s almost like they want you to stay!

  •  Taxis
20101018_kia_k5_taxi_01
Picture: Wikipedia

When our first Korean friend  told us how he went everywhere in taxis, we thought he must be either rich, or a big spender, thinking that we’d never waste money doing the same. Only rich people or celebrities get taxis everywhere, right?

Wrong. Taxis are so cheap and accessible they are the best way to get around. Pretty convenient… but a habit I’ll have to get out of back in England, unless I want to end up bankrupt.

  •  Smart Phones
Samsung_Galaxy_S3
Picture: Vinith Devdas commons.wikimedia

They are just everywhere. Kids as young as 7 years old have the latest model and use them all the time. Going on the subway is like a smart phone commercial, with everyone engrossed in their phones. Ditto family meals.

It’s no wonder that Samsung had succeeded!

  •  Pizza
201422414579712
Picture: MrPizza

Don’t be fooled when you see ‘Pizza Hut’ or ‘Dominoes’ here- you will not be eating a replica of what you would back home. Pizza here has a definite Korean twist. Want a plain cheese pizza? Nope, they add sweetcorn. Cream cheese is also a regular addition to pizza. But the most popular topping here is potato wedges, which Koreans just love to pop on top. Because Pizza doesn’t already have enough carbs, right?

  •  Lack of Food Restrictions
Korean_Style_Chicken_Yangnyum
Picture: Fried C commons.wikimedia

I have to admit- I’ve always been one to smuggle food and drink into places. Cinema, sports arenas, concerts… I want to avoid having to buy things inside which cost twice the price and taste worse.

In Korea, you don’t have to worry about this. You want to take a McDonalds into the cinema? Go ahead. Takeaway pizza into the World Cup Stadium? No problem. It’s amazing! If only they would start doing this in England- finally, I wouldn’t end up with food which is squashed from being hidden at the bottom of my bag…

  •  Animal Cafes

552751_10201378037405834_173293229_n1580_10152092212104305_981947770_n1383041_10201378033445735_1361513640_n

Just the best thing ever. Korea has again been ahead of the times with animal cafes- Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium in London is now hugely popular and the new ‘big thing’, but Korea was there first.

If you’re an animal lover or miss having a pet, there is nowhere better to go.

Just one tip- don’t wear your best clothes if you’re going to a dog cafe.

  •  Driving
Korean_License_Plate_for_Rent_Passenger_car_-_Heo
Picture: wikipedia

It never ceases to amaze me how Korean people change when they get behind the wheel, from gentle, friendly people into angry madmen. Seriously. There have been times when I’ve been in a car or bus that I’ve felt like I was on a rollercoaster, my stomach flipped that many times.

Oh, and one time, I saw a 5-minute standstill at a roundabout because no one wanted to give way.  A roundabout. Those very things which are designed to keep traffic flowing smoothly. This is how little  Koreans follow the rules of the road.

This incident was topped only by the time I saw someone drive the wrong way around a roundabout. Genius.

  •  Rice
Korea-Icheon-Dolsotbap-Cooked_rice_in_a_stone_pot-01
Picture: Wikipedia

So I knew rice was popular, but definitely underestimated the extent of this popularity. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks= rice. You can get rice cakes, alcoholic rice drinks, even pizza bases made from rice.

Honestly, when I don’t take rice from the lunch buffet at school you’d think I had committed a crime by the outraged looks I receive. I’m sorry, I just don’t love plain, dry white rice… please don’t hate me!

Needless to say, if you’re following a low carb diet, Korea might be a tricky place to live. Dr. Atkins would turn in his grave if he knew.

  •  Kimchi
Gimchi
Picture: wikipedia

No article about Korea would be complete without mentioning Kimchi. The food which Korea is famous for, and it is well and truly loved here. Every meal, every day, everywhere.

To put it into perspective- when on holiday in the Philippines, I saw Korean families who brought Kimchi to the breakfast buffet with them to add to their meal. Because a meal without Kimchi is an incomplete meal.

It’s like the English with tea, only, dare I say it, even more extreme.

  •  High Rise Apartments
Picture: wikipedia
Picture: wikipedia

Something which you notice quickly in Korea is the lack of houses and the abundance of high-rise apartments. The higher up your flat, the higher your social status. Apparently.

  •  Countryside vs. city

944229_10200657748879071_1287180301_n 1374851_10201378121567938_71345891_n 935588_10200636402905435_1085899318_n

The juxtaposition of city and countryside in Korea is definitely odd. One minute you are in the middle of a concrete jungle, then you drive for five minutes and you’re in beautiful countryside where there is greenery as far as the eye can see.

So don’t underestimate the natural beauty of Korea- it is actually estimated that 65% of Korea is forest land. Good news for nature lovers.

  •  Exercise Equipment

555048_10200220524308730_2002449270_n

If you ever fancy a quick workout whilst you’re wandering around the city, never fear- Korea is full of small, outside workout machines. This country really gives you no excuses to be lazy…

  •  K Pop
Picture: wikipedia
Picture: wikipedia

Imagine Beatlemania at its highest, the most obsessed ‘Directioners’ (One Direction) or ‘Beliebers’ (Justin Bieber). Replace their screaming, adoring faces with Korean faces; that is how Koreans react to K Pop. K Pop mania truly governs Korea, and they want it to take over the world.

  •  Mouth Protectors
Picture: depletedcranium
Picture: depletedcranium

Don’t worry- there isn’t some contagious disease in Korea which people are scared of. These masks are simply worn if you’re sick, or if the air is extremely polluted.

Still, it was a little disconcerting on the plane to Korea to see 90% of people wearing these. What was this? It was like something out of 28 Days Later! Perhaps I’ll take a mask home with me, in precaution for the next time there’s a swine flu scare…

  •  Hiking Gear

1014072_10151849743219305_1730143858_n 1459326_10152140069524305_1746768396_n

Summer? Yes. 35 degrees? Yes. Koreans hiking up a mountain, covered from head to toe in skin-tight clothes? Yes.

The hardcore hikers in Korea wear the proper hiking outfits, complete with hat, gloves, even a face bandana. Not an inch of skin is exposed to the sun. How they don’t die from heat is beyond me.

The first time we went hiking in shorts and t shirt, we felt practically naked in comparison- and we certainly invited as many odd looks as if we had been.

  •  Bibimbap
Picture: wikipedia
Picture: wikipedia

In my humble opinion, Bibimbap is the best thing about living in Korea. A meal which I have not only become accustomed to, but cannot imagine living without.

Simply a delicious, wholly comforting meal- rice, vegetables, hot pepper paste, meat and egg all in a big mix. Maybe it doesn’t sound like anything special but it definitely is. Different wherever you go, but always satisfying!

Hearty, healthy, Bibimbap is happiness in a bowl.

 

So what else have I grown to love in Korea? Many things… I know that I will never get bored of buying novelty socks with cute designs, and I’ll definitely always appreciate the convenience that wherever you are there is always a 7/11 or CU  store on the corner- so practical! 

Sure, there are some things which take getting used to, but I can safely say that living the Korean life has been pretty good. Now, off to eat some bibimbap…

20 Weird and Wonderful Korean Snacks

When we left home to move to Korea, there was one huge worry on my mind- we were leaving behind England, and with it all the comfort of delicious British food. No more roast dinners, no afternoon teas, no proper English puddings. And to our horror when we arrived, no proper chocolate (apart from the dreaded Hershey’s which, in my opinion, is a poor excuse for chocolate and tastes like it’s a year past its sell-by-date).

So, we were leaving yummy old England to live somewhere which the only foods we knew people ate were rice, one of the most boring foods known to man, and ‘Kimchi’- something which we had never heard of and had only seen described as ‘fermented cabbage’… um, yum?

Not having the greatest expectations, we were pretty happy when we discovered that Korean food is actually pretty delicious. The Koreans have certainly been creative when coming up with new snack ideas and in many ways they’ve succeeded in producing good food. But it isn’t without a weirdness which leaves us Westerners interested, amused… and sometimes disgusted.

So here they are- the top 20 weird, and sometimes wonderful, Korean snacks which we have discovered:

1) Gimbap- The Best

kimbap
Picture: Maangchi

These rolls of heaven are pretty much the same as futomaki sushi rolls- rice and seaweed wrapped around a delicious filling. In Korea, Gimbap is everywhere- it was actually the first thing I ever bought when we arrived in Korea at the airport, overcome with excitement at finding sushi for only 60 p.

The reason it’s so good is the variety of fillings- everything from tuna mayonnaise to spicy beef to ham to tofu. Along with the main ingredient, the rolls are filled with things like spinach, grated carrot, cucumber, egg, yellow radish, the list goes on…

Good as a snack or a lunch, you can buy Gimbap from fast food outlets, street food stalls, or 24 hour convenience stores. The best thing about it? A whole roll can have as few as 300 calories, so it has the added benefit of being healthy!

Best. thing. ever.

 

2) Sweet Garlic Bread- A Deceptive Loaf

SOURDOUGH-GARLIC-BREAD
Picture: Fransico Bread

This is one of Korea’s weirder taste combinations- garlic bread sprinkled with sugar (cheese pizza dressed with honey is a similar Korean oddity which I have so far avoided). I was excited for a taste of home when  I bought some from a local bakery thinking that it was normal garlic bread. Needless to say I was confused when I bit into it expecting to taste something savoury and instead got a mouthful of sugar. What was this strange thing? Should I have it for dinner, or dessert?

It isn’t completely unpleasant, just more of a shock for unsuspecting Westerners. Still, if you’re the kind of person who likes your garlic with a bit of sweetness, this is the snack for you! If not, I’d avoid it.

 

3) Novelty Ice Lollies- The Most Imaginative Snack

Picture: thingsaboutkorea tumblr
ice cream 001
Picture: vegging in chungju

Whoever thinks up ideas for Korean ice lollies deserves a medal for creativity. Take the watermelon ice lolly – it actually has chocolate pieces inside to look like Watermelon seeds, pretty impressive level of accuracy there. Or the corn ice lolly, made to look exactly like a corn on the cob and filled with cream.

Other designs include: ice lollies  moulded like sharks and ice cream sandwiches made to look like fish. Endless fun, and even better- they actually taste good too. Win for Korea!

 

4) Flavoured Sausage Snack- The Babybel/ Cheese-string Hybrid which no-one asked for

fishncheese6
Picture: fishncheese6

I don’t know how to describe these, apart from as a cross between a Babybel and a Cheese-string. They come in different flavours such as cheese, which isn’t so bad, and fish… which is just too weird and which I wouldn’t advise trying. Ever.

But to make it clear for anyone about to try them, this rubbery, bendy snack doesn’t taste at all like a sausage, so don’t get your hopes up.

 

5) Sandwiches- The Worst Example of Fusion

10188_10151843185684305_1435281740_n
Picture: Olly Purvis

Sandwiches aren’t massively popular in Korea- they don’t dominate shelves in the supermarkets or in cafes. But even if they are on the menu, the filling isn’t exactly what we Brits would expect.

No, the Koreans take a normal sandwich: chicken, ham or cheese, and add so many other ingredients that it ends up tasting like there’s a whole buffet of sandwiches in your mouth at once (and that’s not a good thing).

Take the pictured example above, which is  a sandwich at our school lunch. We were initially delighted to see sandwiches- but then we took a closer look and saw that it wasn’t your ordinary cheese-and-coleslaw filling… some genius had decided to add jam to the mix. And from the happy faces of students and colleagues alike munching away happily, this is obviously a hit combination in Korea.

I, however, remain unconvinced.

 

6) Dried Ramen- The Kids Favourite

Instantnoodles
Picture: Wikipedia

This one is quite easy to try at home: get a packet of instant ramen, sprinkle on the flavouring, shake it all together in the packet… and eat. No cooking involved. Goodness knows what raw ramen does to your digestive system, but the people here don’t seem to mind.

I have to admit I haven’t tried it, preferring my noodles cooked. But you can try it with a packet of super-noodles and make your own mind up.

 

7) Spiral Potato Stick (Tornado Potato)- The evolution of the Curly Fry

images
Picture: rustandsunshine

This street-food snack is pretty similar to curly fries, only more fun to eat. Deep-fried, salty, delicious potato goodness- you can’t really go wrong!

 

 8) Imitation Crisps- Another Creative Snack 

zwiebel-ringe
Picture: trueller-snacks

Here we see the same pattern as with the imaginative ice lollies: Koreans imitating real foods, only this time in crisp versions. You can find french fry crisps, onion ring crisps, even fried chicken crisps.

Combine a bag of the fried chicken and a packet of the french fries with some vegetable crisps, and you can make an entire meal. Pretty tasty (although probably not the most balanced dinner).

 

9) Red Bean Bun- The Crowd Divider

Bean-jam-bun,anpan,katori-city,japan
Picture: wikipedia

This is similar to marmite- most people love or hate red bean. It takes some getting used to, admittedly, a sweet bean paste with a texture similar to peanut butter.

The first time I picked up a red bean bun, I thought it was actually going to be chocolate inside, and similarly to my garlic bread experience was confused when I bit into it. Luckily for me I fall into the ‘love’ category so wasn’t disgusted unlike some people I know who’ve made the same mistake!

And for those who like red bean- it’s much healthier than chocolate, so you can finally have a good excuse to hit the bakery, guilt free. Definite positive!

 

10) Rice Cakes- A Poor Excuse for Cake

rice-cake (1)
Picture: Maangchi
Market outside of Osan, Korea
Picture: wikipedia

I was quite excited to try Korean cakes… that is until I ate some and realised that they aren’t cakes at all.

It’s quite hard to describe Korean rice cakes- try to imagine chewing on a congealed lump of rice, (sometimes lukewarm, most of the time cold), with little taste and which leaves you with an uncomfortable bloating feeling in your stomach. Sometimes there might be a few raisins or beans in the cake, but that doesn’t make it much better.

Unfortunately Koreans love the things and they are everywhere. They’re also a very popular gift to exchange, especially for national holidays- the equivalent of mince pies or Easter eggs- but sadly without any of the deliciousness.

 

11) Fish Jerky- The Unexpected Delight

1622823_10152306765414305_1742287639_n
Picture: Olly Purvis

This is the beef jerky equivalent, and a popular snack. It’s tasty and healthy and even more delicious when heated- a good way to do this is to barbecue the fish (pictured) so that it ends up warm and crispy.

This snack is a definite winner for me. Just one piece of advice- skip the dried squid. Not only does it look unpleasant, but chewing on a rubbery tentacle isn’t the most appealing thing, as you can see in the picture below.

1044451_10151843182959305_1920971583_n
Picture: Olly Purvis

 

 12) Jollypong- The Breakfast Cereal Snack

Picture: orientalmart

This is basically a bag of sugar puffs (although they do also come in chocolate flavour). If you like dry cereal (which luckily I do), then this is for you. If not, they are at least useful to keep in the house as an emergency cereal back up in case you unexpectedly run out.

 

13) Cheesecake- Same Name, Very Different

3299209316_487dd1b4b5_z
Picture: Foodista flickr

This is another Korean food which shouldn’t fool you by it’s normal name. Because this snack does not in any way resemble Western cheesecake with its lovely biscuit base and sweet, creamy topping.

No, this is literally cheese cake. As in, cake which tastes like cheese. Cheddar cheese in fact.

It’s about the same level in weirdness as Sweet Garlic Bread, but a lower level on taste. You’ve been warned.

 

14) Bappingsu- The Summertime Favourite

Picture
Picture: caffebene

This refreshing treat tastes a whole lot better than it looks. It consists of a pile of ice shavings, topped with different things- milk, ice cream, syrup, fruit, sweets, cereal to name a few. The toppings mix with the ice to make a sweet mixture of yumminess, and it’s mainly ice, so it has to be healthy, right?

Warning- beware red bean. If you are a hater of red bean, make sure you get one with a different topping, as among Koreans the bean paste is probably the most popular flavour.

 

15) Pepero- The Most Addictive Snack since Pringles

P
Picture: alimentacioncoreana

These chocolate sticks of heaven are so good that there is actually a ‘Pepero Day’ in Korea, where you give packets of them to loved ones. Seriously.

They come in different flavours- dark, white, almond, strawberry, cookie, and different sizes- for a special gift you can buy huge Peperos in a special gift box.

The only bad thing about them is that it’s too easy to eat a whole box (or two) without thinking. Oops.

 

16) Tteokbokki – Korean Comfort Food

Picture: kimchimari
Picture: kimchimari

Made from rice, these are savoury versions of the previously mentioned rice cakes. Apart from that in this form, they are delicious. Similar to Gnocchi in texture, the rice cakes are served warm and in sauce (usually tomato flavoured and spicy, although it depends what type you buy). You can even buy cheese-filled Tteokbokki, which is just amazing.

Most popular as a street food, Tteokbokki is comforting, wholesome and also incredibly cheap to buy.  Pretty much everything you could ever want in a snack.

 

 17) Silkworm Pupae- The One Which even Koreans Hate

Picture
Picture: trekearth

If you’ve ever wanted to try boiled silkworm, Korea is the place to come. Not only is this snack served as street food, but you can also buy the silkworm snack in cans at convenience stores- very handy if you have a quick craving!

I can’t honestly say I’ve tried eating this as even Koreans have warned me against it- 99% of those I’ve spoken to don’t like it, but it’s still sold in abundance in food markets so someone must be eating it. As for me, I think I’ll continue to avoid it.

 

18) Choco Pies- More a cake than a Pie

Picture: commons.wikipedia
Picture: ProjectManhattan, commons.wikipedia

This is a favourite among adults and children alike. Imagine a more cake-like Wagon Wheel and you’ve got it. Sweet and full of marshmallow, this is one sweet treat which is good in Korea. Just don’t be fooled by the word ‘Pie’- this is a cake, plain and simple.

 

19) Chocolate Rocks- Smarties from the Stone Age

Picture: modernseoul
Picture: modernseoul

Chocolates which look like stones? Why not?

Whatever the inventor of these chocolates was thinking, we don’t care- they taste good, which is frankly the only thing we care about when eating chocolate.

 

20) Seaweed Crisps

Korean Seaweed
Picture: cheungstrading

Korea was way ahead of the kale crisp trend, with their own Seaweed Crisps. These thin strips of roasted, seasoned seaweed are full of salty, delicious flavour and are a great alternative to potato crisps.

With as few as 20 calories in a pack, Seaweed crisps are a completely guilt-free snack which is packed with antioxidants, and a good source of potassium too.. it would be a crime not to eat!

 

So there you have it- a select group of Korean snacks, from the delicious to the disgusting. That’s not to say there are many more foods which could be on the list: if you ever fancy a waffle-on-a-stick (a ‘long-ffle’), a rice burger or some chicken feet, Korea is the place to be.

Oh, and when you’ve finished eating your snack, you can clean your teeth with pine-tree flavoured tooth paste… sound good?