Now that winter is behind us and a sticky summer season is peeking its head around the corner, one of the easiest ways to relish the beautiful weather is outdoors on the grass with friends and food. Where I’m from, a picnic will often evolve into an event requiring at least a day of preparation: a bunch of homemade or hand-selected foods that travel well, a boozy drink, and friends who are just as keen to sit and graze for hours as I am. Lately, I like the idea of something more spur-of-the-moment for those afternoons when a carefree mind is the only prerequisite needed for the day. Fortunately for the spontaneous (or lazy) among us, it’s possible to whip up an impromptu feast using ingredients found in your friendly convenience stores (assuming, of course, that your taste buds aren’t too highbrow). Most convenience stores in Seoul come complete with counters, microwaves, and utensils at the ready for your inner Julia Child. Try out these menus we’ve invented, or post your own in the comments.
Tip: One of my favorite spots in Seoul to picnic is near Jamsil station on the Han, where Family Marts line the bike path and trees give respite from the heat.
Forget instant ramyeon—fill up on these main dishes for a hearty riverside repast.
Pre-cooked rice is available everywhere, sold in individual portions, and can be easily warmed in a microwave, making these rice bowls a snap to put together.
• bowl, spoon, chopsticks
• pre-cooked rice
• hardboiled egg
Peel back the cover of the rice slightly and heat for two minutes. Crush gim with your hands and mix it with rice, slices of peeled hardboiled egg, and a spoonful of gochujang.
Kimchi and cheese potato sticks (to share)
• 1 can potato sticks
• 2 packages string cheese
• 1 package kimchi
Layer potato sticks and kimchi on a plate. Tear pieces of string cheese and sprinkle on top. Heat in microwave until the cheese has melted.
Egg salad (for 2)
• bowl, fork, spoon
• 4 hard boiled eggs
• 1 crabstick (If you find two different lengths of crabstick at the store, go for the shorter length.)
Peel and break up hardboiled eggs in a bowl. Add a touch of mayonnaise (or more according to your taste). Mash mayonnaise and egg together with a fork. Then shred crabstick, toss in a pinch of salt, and mix with egg. Taste and leave as is, or mix in a teaspoon of wasabi. Eat with or without crackers.
When opening a package is too easy, get fancy with these picnic additions. [For the compulsive eaters among us, munch on these tasty snacks.]
On a balmy morning, chilled, creamy yogurt layered with crunchy cereal and fruit is the perfect refreshment.
• cup, spoon, knife
• yogurt (plain or vanilla flavored)
• fruit (I’ve seen fresh apples, bananas, and oranges at some convenience stores. Otherwise, most stores sell fruit in syrup that works, too.)
Cut fresh fruit into bite-sized pieces. Spoon half-inch layers of yogurt, fruit, and cereal into a cup, alternating ingredients until the cup is as full as you’d like. If you are using fruit in syrup, drain and discard most of the syrup first.
Brownie à la mode
• plate, spoon
• Market O Real Brownie
• vanilla ice cream
• salted almonds
Heat brownie in the microwave for 30 seconds (if you know it will cool by the time you have a chance to eat it, skip this step). Top with ice cream and almonds.
Put together a simple and tasty trail mix with these suggested components, or browse and choose your favorites.
• cup or bowl
• nuts (cashews or almonds)
• dried mango
• chocolate covered sunflower seeds
The lush life
Traditionally made by pouring fresh espresso over ice cream, an affogato is an enticing contrast of hot and cold and the perfect four-season dessert. I haven’t seen straight espresso sold at any convenience stores, but an unsweetened, hot Americano works for this improvised version.
• cup, spoon
• vanilla ice cream
• Americano, from the heated “fridge,” or else heated in the microwave
Fill a cup with one or two scoops of ice cream. Pour a quarter to half of the coffee over ice cream just before you’re ready to eat.
For an icy, refreshing snack that feels good on a hot day, smash a strawberry or melon flavored popsicle in a cup with a bit of soju and a splash of cider, or leave out the soju for a N/A version.
On a hot sunny day, the only drink more flawless than cold beer is cold beer with sparkling lemonade. Make a non-alcoholic version by substituting Chilsung cider or Sprite for beer.
• glass, ice
• beer (choose a light lager rather than a dark beer for this)
• sparkling lemonade (Lorina or Sunkist brand)
Fill half a glass with beer and top the rest with lemonade.
Milder and less sweet than a traditional White Russian, this cold, milky cocktail is deliciously easy to make.
*cup, ice, straw
*cold, unsweetened Americano
Pour 2 parts soju to one part iced Americano and one part milk. Stir.
For the days when a drink before noon is entirely appropriate, a soju screwdriver hits the spot.
• glass, ice
• 1 bottle soju
• 1 bottle orange juice
Pour two ounces of soju in a glass over ice (ask for the same bag of ice that comes with a bagged drink). Fill glass with orange juice. Stir.