Friday, October 05, 2012

Minimart a big hit with budget-conscious diners

By Lincoln Tan 5:30 AM Wednesday Oct 3, 2012 Budget-conscious diners are turning to a central city minimart on Wakefield Street for cheap "cook-it-yourself" noodle meals. S-Mart, a Korean supermarket, provides a hot water dispenser for customers to cook instant noodles purchased there, and wooden benches and tables for people to dine. It has become a hit for students and central city workers, especially at lunch time. Emma Lim, 27, a travel consultant, said rent and power price rises in the last year have left her with less money to spend on food, but eating out for her was "something of a necessity rather than a luxury". "I'll go crazy if I had to eat at my desk, or go straight home every day to cook," she said. "Eating at S-Mart is probably the cheapest option, where a couple of dollars can buy you noodles and a drink." Customers who buy instant noodles that come packaged in disposable cups or bowls can cook it with the boiling water from the dispenser, and eat them with the store-supplied wooden chopsticks. S-mart assistant manager Lena Lee said the cheapest cup of noodles cost $1.20, but those on special could go as low as 90 cents, and the costs started at $1 for a Korean canned drink. "What we provide is similar to some convenience stores in Asia, so generally, Koreans, Chinese and Japanese people are quite familiar with the concept of cooking their own noodles," she said. "It's getting to be very popular in Auckland, and during lunch times, sometimes we don't even get a chance to breathe." Peter Kim, 22, an AUT computer science undergraduate, said he had instant noodles at S-mart at least twice a week, not only because it's cheap, but he likes his lunches hot. "Having a hot bowl of noodles beats having a cold sandwich anytime," he said. "Besides, a sandwich would probably cost more." Madis, a kiosk inside S-mart, also provides a cheap gimbab (Korean sushi) lunch option, where customers can choose what they want to be added to their seaweed rice roll. The choice of fillings include tuna, bulgogi (barbecued beef), ham, cream cheese and prawns, and customers get to also choose the type of rice and sauces they want. Owner Sun Soo Na describes her operation as "like Subway for gimbab". The gimbab rolls come in a five or 10-piece pack, priced between $3 and $6.50.

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