[Ramen Library]

South Korea ranks second in the world in per capita consumption of instant ramen noodles. The annual consumption per capita is a whopping 77 servings. Even by simple calculation, this means that a person eats instant ramen at least once a week. Incidentally, Vietnam is in first place with about 85 servings, and Thailand is in third place with about 55 servings. In just a few decades since Nissin Foods' "Chicken Ramen" became the world's first instant ramen in 1958, instant ramen has successfully merged with food cultures around the world and has become familiar to people all over the world. If you have ever watched Korean movies or dramas, you may recognize scenes of people eating ramen. Instant ramen is such an indispensable part of the Korean diet. When I learned that a convenience store specializing in instant ramen had opened, I decided to visit it during my trip to Korea.

The Hongdae Sunsan branch of CU, a major convenience store chain in Korea, opened in December 2023 as a "ramen library," as it is called. Upon entering the store, one is overwhelmed by the wide variety of bagged noodles lining the walls. It is a heaven for instant ramen lovers, and the restaurant also has tables lined with cup ramen-designed eat-in tables. The bookshelf-like walls are lined with instant ramen noodles arranged neatly by type, like books in a library, making it tempting to pick them up one by one. It was hard to decide which one to try because there were so many varieties, so I decided to try the budae jjigae ramen with a pop-up saying it was the most popular. The great thing about this ramen library is not only the wide variety of ramen, but also the wide selection of toppings, beverages, and alcoholic beverages that make it hard to decide which one to try. This is truly a convenience store for eating delicious instant ramen.

You can easily taste the ramen on the spot by purchasing the container together with your bill and cooking it in a special machine in the store. All you have to do is put the entire contents of the bag of noodles into the container, place it on the IH part of the machine, and press the start button. The machine automatically pours in the required amount of hot water and heats the noodles in the induction cooker for the prescribed time. All that is left to do is to loosen the noodles during the heating process while watching the timing as usual. Since my body was cold from walking around outside, I was able to enjoy a delicious bowl of hot ramen. Of course, since it is a convenience store, it is open 24 hours a day. I recommend stopping by for a nighttime snack, in between sightseeing, or whenever you feel hungry.

Convenience stores near parks along the Han River, which flows through Seoul from north to south, often have similar machines. If you get tired of sightseeing or shopping, we recommend spending the day eating instant noodles while enjoying the view of the Han River. I feel that enjoying local food in the same way as the locals is the best way to get to know a country. We hope you will experience the instant ramen culture of Korea.