Like most ultramodern cities, Seoul has tons of readymade food on hand. We like the frozen breaded pork cutlets the most. Mounds and mounds of marinated bulgogi is available at the Lotte Mart. Better than anything I've had in the States.
But my wife decided that I would cook on weekends. So, since I have the time, I like to try to put in a bit more preparation and care in the meals I make.
But, as advanced as Seoul is, there are a lot of things that are either non-existant or at the least very hard to come by. OR a poor substitute. OR very expensive.
Limes. I can't find limes. I can find lemons. But no limes. It doesn't mean they aren't here. It just means they either sell out before I get them, or they really aren't here.
Corn. The corn here is not as good as the corn in the USA and thus, not as edible. American corn is sweeter and more delicate. The corn here is chewy and not as sweet.
Italian Flat Parsley. Ok. I did find this. Finally. But it was packaged like you would fresh herbs: in a tiny little plastic container with a few sprigs. If you need a "bunch" of flat parsley, forget it. Curly parsley is available, so, the answer is to punt with this.
Purple onions. They are available, but not always. White and yellow onions are available.
Fennel bulbs. Haven't seen them.
Apples. There are apples here. But from what I can tell only one variety. Whereas, in the US there are several to choose from.
Carrots. The carrots here are monstrous in size. Carrots in the US are svelt. But the taste is identical.
Spices. This is tough to say. Dried spices appear to be somewhat available. Thyme, Rosemary. These are the common ones. To be honest, the grocery store near our apartment has a couple of shelves dedicates to American foodstuffs. So, I just pick them up from there.
If you want to get more exotic, say, tumeric, coriander, cumin, cardomon, then you have to find an Arabic or African grocery store.
If you want even more exotic (for Korea, that is) - say you want anise, saffron, fennel seeds, allspice, carraway seeds, mace, marjoram, nutmeg, sage, the list goes on, then the hunt is on. OR they just aren't available.
Fresh spices. There seem to be a selection at the highend grocery stores like emart and Lotte Mart.
Tomatoes. They have a variety that resembles the beefsteak type in the US. Plum, cherry and grape sizes are here. The bad news is they all taste like US tomatoes. Nothing like Italian tomatoes which are to die for.
Zucchini. They are here and they are enormous.
Eggplant. The only variety I've found are the oriental thin ones.
String beans. Small quantities packaged special. (=expensive)
Peas. Same as string beans.
Dried beans. Don't exist except at arabic and african grocery stores. You can't be an 11 bean soup.
Lima beans. Haven't seen them.