Cover Photo: Lainey Loh

CU says "Annyeonghaseyo, eseo oseyo!" to Hallyu fans in Malaysia with the opening of its first store

South Korea’s largest convenience store chain has made its way to Malaysia with the opening of its Centrepoint Bandar Utama outlet, the first of 30 to 50 stores slated to open within the span of a year.

Already a household name in its home country and often glimpsed in popular K-dramas such as The Heirs, Love Alarm, I Wanna Hear Your Song, Encounter, among others, the green and purple logo is certainly no stranger to die-hard Hallyu fans.

Having personally spent many a night washing down bags of honey butter chips and gimbaps (seaweed rice rolls) with flavoured soju of sorts from CU stores in Seoul, I was only too excited to explore CU’s maiden voyage to not only Malaysia but also Southeast Asia.

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At the CU Centrepoint Bandar Utama launch on April 1, as the queue began to snake around the block, I was whisked away on a private media tour of the store to see, touch, eat, and buy. Here’s why it made me miss those Korean snacks-snacking and soju-chugging nights in Seoul so much.

Ready-to-eat

One of the many things that always gets me excited about going to South Korea is the delicious street food. Street food in South Korea is deeply ingrained in the K-culture and is constantly evolving. While some are seasonal, historically, the mainstays have been eomuk/odeng (fish cake), tteokbokki (stir-fried rice cakes), and gamjahasdogeu (corndog). To my giddy excitement, CU Centrepoint Bandar Utama has them all!

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The store also boasts a wide array of ready-to-eat, bite-sized Korean meals such as gimbap, jumeokbap (Korean-style onigiri), cup-bap (Korean food truck-style rice bowl), dosirak (Korean lunch box) sandwiches, and more. In particular, I noticed a striking 'K-pop idol sandwich' tucked in between other sandwiches on the shelf, which I assume is inspired by the 'Inkigayo sandwich' that many K-pop idols would eat before going onstage for the popular SBS music show, Inkigayo.

The original version is a fluffy sandwich that contains layers of potato egg salad, cabbage crab salad, and strawberry jam. Rumour has it that idols would secretly exchange numbers by leaving their numbers inside the sandwich.

For the sweet tooth

Pining for your daily dose of sweets? CU has got you covered–and with a local twist for select sugary goodies.

Aside from savoury meals, the store also offers everything you can imagine from drinks to baked goods such as the fragrant pandan cream choux, injeolmi (Korean sweet rice cake) softserve, pumpkin sikhye (Korean sweet rice drink), refreshing bingsu (shaved ice dessert), pre-packed delaffe drinks, banana uyu (banana milk), fruity Melona ice pops, creamy tiramisu, salted gula Melaka fudge, fizzy Chupa Chups-flavoured drinks, and more.

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You can also grab a tub of KitKat or Oreo ice cream (because we all need to treat ourselves in a major way sometimes), or a bag of fresh fruits if you feel like just a sip or a bite is not enough.

Beauty on the go

To my surprise, CU Centrepoint Bandar Utama has also curated a humble range of Korean make-up and skincare–and not from just any Korean brand, but the much-raved-about names any K-beauty fan would recognise.

Want to achieve the highly desired Korean glass skin? Grab a mask or two from CU's selection of Mediheal sheet masks. For the uninitiated, Mediheal is one of the OG Korean skincare brands and among the top sheet mask brands in South Korea. Beauty enthusiasts love Mediheal for its power-packed formulations and proven effectiveness.

If that isn't enough to convince you, Mediheal also boasts leading K-celebrity ambassadors such as K-pop idol boy group BTS and Crash Landing On You superstar Hyun Bin.

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There's also a small selection of skin-friendly products from Cosrx, lotions and moisturisers from The Saem, and a handful of makeup must-haves (lip balm, lip tint, mascara, concealer) just in case you left yours at home and desperately need to pick one up.

Unfortunately, there was nary a hint of soju but fret not, there's still a great choice of chilled beers for those who fancy a tipple.

There are also self-cook stations for your Korean instant noodles, complete with aluminium foil containers, if you choose to savour your Nongshim Shin Ramyun or Paldo Teumsae Ramyun (for that extra spicy kick) in-store at the available dine-in seatings both indoors and alfresco instead of lugging them home.

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The verdict: Would I visit CU Centrepoint Bandar Utama again? In a heartbeat! It's the closest I can get to actually being in Seoul for now, by the Hangang (Han river) in chilly autumn, slurping up my piping hot Korean instant noodles while listening to melodic buskers belting out covers of my favourite K-pop songs.

Aside from planning to launch 30 to 50 stores within the year, myNews Holdings Bhd also confirmed plans to open a total of 500 stores in Malaysia in the next five years.

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