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Kimbab Heaven 김밥천국
If you have not tried kimbab, you are missing out on a real Korean treat. Kimbab is made from a layer of dried seaweed, covered with a thin layer of rice, with a few strips of ham, veggies, and cooked egg in the middle. This is rolled into a log about 1 1/2" thick and 9" long, then sliced.
One of the cheapest places for kimbab is the Korean restaurant called Kimbab Heaven (or 김밥천국 -- pronounced Kimbap Cheonguk). It is the equivalent of McDonald's in Korea--located on every street corner with good quality food at great prices. Kimbab is only 1,500 won here. I have often gone to Kimbab Heaven and spent more on the taxi ride than on dinner... They are open 24/7!
There is a competing chain called Kimbab Nara. Kind of like McDonald's and Burger King in America. One group of Koreans swears Kimbab Heaven is better while the others swear by Kimbab Nara. Personally, my choice is Kimbab Heaven, maybe because it is open 24/7 and located everywhere. It's sign is in Hangul, but look for the funky orange, black and white logo with a clean, brightly lit restaurant (though some new stores have a more subdued green facade as of 2013). Also, the menu is entirely in Hangul, so order something simple you know like kimbab or bibimbab, or learn to read a little.
Kimbabcheongug (±è¹äÃµ±¹): Cheap, good and very Korean
Kimbabcheongug (Kim-bab-cheon-gug) is a local franchise, Korean-style restaurant that serves all kinds of easy-to-make food for affordable prices.
The menu is huge (at least 50 items can be selected!) and includes a variety of hot, cold, spicy, non-spicy, rice, noodle and soup-based dishes.
As the name already implies, the shop primarily sells Kimbab, the Korean-style rice roll, wrapped in sheets of dried seaweed and filled with a variety of vegetables and/or sauteed meat. The cheapest roll of Kimbab comes for 1,000 KRW.
Korean people mostly order a dish for each person and one or two rolls of Kimbab that is placed in the middle of the table and shared. Each dish can also be ordered as take-out.
Prices range from 1,000 KRW to around 5,000 KRW.
The picture shows the typical outlook of Kimbabcheongug. While walking through the streets of Seoul you will notice a couple of other chains that look very similar and sell exactly the same kind of food for identical prices. It's very popular among Koreans and foreigners (especially budget travelers) should give it a try.
The only hurdle might be the missing English menu. As mentioned in my Tourist Trap tip, I suggest to either learn a couple of Korean letters or simply point at pictures that usually line the walls. An experience you won't forget...!
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