Any visitor in South Korea is astonished by the variety, affordability, and amazing tastes of the treats available in its streets. Indeed, Korea is a haven for street food and these gastronomical delights are a significant part of their pop and food culture.
You can easily spot vendors selling them on streets, whether in the big, vibrant cities or the small, quaint countryside towns. So, there’s no reason for you to miss out tasting these irresistible delicacies should you happen to be in the country. To help out, here are the top Korean street foods you must try – be prepared to keep coming back for more after your first bite!
The first street food you should definitely try in Korea is tteokbokki. It’s a cylindrical rice cake cooked in gochujang, a spicy paste made of red chili peppers, rice, fermented soybeans, and salt. Visit stalls and subway stations and you can quickly find pots with chewy, sticky tteokbokki bubbling in its red, sweet and spicy sauce. Though you may not like it firsthand, eat some more and you’ll be surprised how extremely addictive it is. Soon, you’ll be among the lots of individuals who love the spicy, messy yet incredibly tasty tteokbokki!
Gamja-Hotdog (Corn Dog)
Corn dogs aren’t only popular in the United States, but you can see them in Korean streets as well. Known as Gamja-Hotdog, the Korean version resembles the usual corn dog. Yet, what makes the street food more exciting is the variety you can see in Korea. From cheese corn dog, french fries corn dog, to octopus corn dog, Korea has it all. You can have one rolled in sugar or covered with a sauce. Either way, it’s a fun, delicious experience!
A true specialty from South Korea, hotteok is a simple, delicious stuffed pancake traditionally made in Korea during the winter months. Its filling is a sweet syrup made of brown sugar, cinnamon, and chopped peanuts. Though other fillings or flavors like pizza, matcha, kimchi, japchae, and cheese are now available. Hotteok is usually served fresh from the griddle and is often too hot to eat at first, making it a perfect street snack if you’d like to warm up during colder temperatures.
Bungeoppang (Fish-shaped Pastry)
Bungeoppang is believed to be the Korean counterpart of the Japanese dessert taiyaki. It’s a fish-shaped pastry filled with sweetened red bean paste. You can see vendors cooking them in the streets, pouring the batter in a fish-shaped waffle grill, and adding the filling before the pastry is cooked until golden brown. Other flavors are also available, such as chocolate, custard, or vanilla ice cream – a surefire hit for people with a sweet tooth!
Eomuk (Fish Cake)
Eomuk, more popularly known as odeng in Japanese, is fish cake skewers served with a cup of broth. Other countries in Asia have their own version and Korea is no exception. Fish cake is a staple street food in the nation and is served virtually anywhere. Sweet, spicy, salty, and chewy, all ages simply love its goodness.
Kimbap (Seaweed Rice Rolls)
Kimbap is another fixture in the Korean street industry and perhaps the most recognizable street food outside the country. It’s often called Korean sushi, which comprises steamed rice, meat fillings, and vegetables, all wrapped in dried seaweed sheets. Well-loved for its lightness, sweetness, savoriness, and portability, you can easily find kimbap in Korean streets, especially in Myeongdong.
Pajeon (Savory Pancake)
Pancakes are supposed to be sweet, right? Well, not so, says the Koreans. Pajeon is a different take on the usual sweet pancakes. It’s rather crispy and savory, with a batter made of rice flour, wheat flour, eggs, and scallions, its main ingredients. Different market vendors have different recipes, with some adding vegetables, shrimp, squid, seafood, pork, beef, or kimchi. Pajeon is also popular in other parts of the world, so it’s little wonder that you can find them on Korean streets at any time of day.
Gyeranppang (Egg Bread)
Your Korean trip won’t be complete without eating gyeranppang or egg bread. While it may sound simple, egg bread is far from that, given its distinct sweet and savory taste. Its batter is made of baking powder, flour, eggs, milk, butter, sugar, and salt. The mixture is then placed onto a machine, and a whole fresh egg is cracked on top. It’s cooked until the muffin-like bread is golden brown, which exudes an enticing smell, ranging between sweet and savory. Best eaten when warm, it’s perfect for breakfast, lunch, as a mid-day snack, or dinner. In short, you can have it all day!
Are you a fan of chicken kebab? If yes, be sure to taste Dakkochi, Korea’s street food version of your favorite grilled chicken skewers. Seasoned chicken pieces are threaded on bamboo sticks and flame-grilled, with green onions and mushroom, sometimes skewered in between the meat pieces. What makes it more delicious is the addictive sweet and spicy or sweet and salty sauce that uses gochujang and gochugaru chili powder as its main ingredients. Tender, succulent, and flavorful, expect to eat more sticks than what you expect.
Twigim basically refers to any deep-fried food covered in batter, made of bread crumbs, flour, and starch powder. A variety of food can be fried, from sweet potatoes, squid, shrimp, seaweed noodle rolls, chili, and vegetables. It’s best eaten with tteokbokki sauce and sundae or Korean blood sausage.
Kkwabaegi (Twisted Korean Doughnuts)
Kkwabaegi is another sweet treat you can taste to delight your taste buds. These Korean doughnuts are made with glutinous rice flour, butter, yeast, white sugar, egg, milk, and salt. The dough is then divided into smaller parts and each is twisted in a rope. They are all deep-fried until golden brown and then covered with cinnamon powder and sugar. Kkwabaegi is best eaten when warm, but you can reheat them in an oven or microwave should you decide to take some more from the streets.
Hoeori Gamja (Tornado Potato)
Unknown to many people, the tornado potato (Hoeori Gamja) is actually believed to have originated in Korea in the mid-2000s as a street snack. Since then, it has become widely popular across the world and commonly enjoyed in parties, theme parks, fairs, and carnivals across the world. It’s basically a whole potato, spirally cut by a machine, skewered on a stick, and deep-fried. It’s then brushed with seasonings, like cheese, onion, or joney, and often served in Korea with sausage meat in the middle.
Indeed, South Korea has one of the best and most delicious array of street food in the world. Try them all and explore other food and dishes the country has to offer, and what you’re only bound to have is a memorable, delectable culinary experience. Happy eating