Life is too short – don’t miss out on these irresistible 21 mouth-watering Korean Street Foods next time you’re in South Korea! And if you’re stuck at home – now you know what to order tonight!
One of the best Korean street foods to try is definitely tteokbokki, a type of stir fry mainly consisting of rice cakes and fish cakes. In fact, ‘tteok’ means rice cake and ‘bokki’ means fried.
If you’ve yet to try rice cakes, it might take you a while to get used to their sticky, glutinous texture.
Although they don’t possess a huge amount of flavor, they certainly soak up the hot chili flavor of the sauce they’re soaked in.
If you don’t like tteokbokki on the first try, it’s worth giving it another go. It’s surprisingly addictive!
Tteokbokki is somewhat like a soup, often including scallion onions and boiled eggs, topped with melted cheese.
When exploring the Seoul street food, you won’t go long before seeing giant vats of tteokbokki which vendors will spoon into a takeaway container and charge you around 3,000 won.
You can find tteokbokki at street stalls and subway stations.
The dish is thought to have been invented in 1953 in Seoul as royal court cuisine. Now it’s not reserved for the elite – everyone loves a spicy, messy portion of tteokbokki!
It was originally a pale brown color but since gochujang has become immensely popular, it’s now a punchy shade of bright red.
by Rose from Where Goes Rose?
Dragon’s Beard Candy
If you’re looking for a fun and very different street food to try when you’re in Seoul, South Korea, check out dragon’s beard.
You’ll probably hear these street vendors before you see them, yelling out the name of this tasty treat in a sign-songy way.
Dragon’s beard is sometimes known as Chinese cotton candy as it originated in China. There are a number of stories about how it got its name and where it was created, but no one knows for sure.
It’s lightly sweet, surprising as it’s made from mostly sugar. The sugar is worked into super-fine strands and it’s usually filled with a sweet peanut and coconut mixture.
Dragon’s beard has a textured crunch and like cotton candy, it kind of melts in your mouth, then becoming a chewy treat.
In Seoul, you’ll find carts around the city and sometimes will even see dragon’s beard in shops.
It’s now found in various parts of eastern Asia though you can sometimes find it in Canada and the United States.
The show the street vendors put on making it is as much fun as eating it. Trying dragon’s beard candy is a fun part of visiting Korea that shouldn’t be missed.
by By Sam Glauser from My Flying Leap
In a country known for its delectable street food, you can’t miss the opportunity to try a true South Korean specialty: hotteok.
Hotteok, a delicious pancake-style snack served piping hot, fresh from the griddle, can be found all over South Korea in the winter months, as a popular snack to warm up in sometimes-frigid temperatures.
Authentic hotteok are made from a yeasted dough allowed to proof and rise several hours, and are made-to-order– first, they are filled, and then fried flat, leading to a finished product that is slightly caramelized and likely too hot to eat at first!
While there is some variety in flavor, and the new popularity worldwide of the dish has led to inventive flavor combinations popping up in the last few years, you should absolutely try the traditional filling while you’re visiting Seoul: brown sugar, honey, and a variety of chopped nuts forming a sugary-sweet syrup.
A few modern flavor options include matcha, pizza, and beyond– though whether you try those is up to you!
While hotteok was traditionally only made in the winter, its popularity with tourists and Koreans alike means that you can likely find it in touristy parts of town whenever you visit, such as Insadong or the Bukchon Hanok Village.
By Tegan + Alex at Why Not Walk Travel Guides
Dalgona (sponge candy)
Dalgona is one of the funnest Korean street foods that doubles as a little game for young and old since the late 90s.
This Korean dessert is sold at random locations from street vendors around the country. It’s basically a caramel candy that has a crisp exterior and spongy interior made from melted sugar and baking soda.
It’s pretty fun to watch when the vendor adds the baking soda to the melted sugar as the dalgona puffs up before being pressed into a flat candy.
Some vendors allow customers to create their own dalgona which acts as a fun family event on a day out, especially at some of the best attractions in Seoul like Lotte World or Olympic Park.
There is a picture added to the center of a cutesy object like a heart, flower or dog. The objective is to eat around the picture without breaking it.
They say that if you’re able to do this, you get another dalgona for free. It is suggested to support the vendor even if you are able to crack the code.
It’s only a dollar after all. Dalgona-infused desserts have recently become a massive craze where you can find dalgona lattes and coffees, crisps, milk tea, croissants, madeleines and much more.
The first to start this craze was the Cafe Cha (written as “ㅊa”) franchise.
By Cal at Once in a Lifetime Journey
Sundae (Soondae) (Blood sausages)
Traditionally eaten during festivals and celebrations, sundae is a kind of blood sausage made from cooked blood, mince, vegetables and rice.
Although now popular across the entire Korean peninsula, sundae originated in Korea’s mountainous north, along the modern border with China.
During the region’s Goryeo period (which corresponds to the Early Medieval period of Europe) sundae was made from the intestines of the then abundant wild boar.
These days it’s often made from domestic pigs and cows and comes in a number of different regional varieties, incorporating vegetarian and seafood options.
Pancakes are a favourite in many parts of the world so it’s not surprising that Pajeon is one of the most popular Korean street foods.
Loosely translated, pajeon means “green onion (pa) pancake (jeon)” and it’s the scallion that makes these pancakes iconic.
Pajeon are made from a standard pancake batter with eggs, wheat or rice flour and mixed with shredded potatoes and scallion.
Although the main vegetable ingredient is scallion all kinds of other vegetables make their way into the recipes of different market vendors.
The batter is mixed with the main ingredients on the street and can feature a choice of beef, pork, seafood, or kimchi. Dongnae Pajeon is fried with squid and shrimp to give a chewy texture and especially popular in Busan.
Pajeon are usually served with Cho-gochujang; a sweet, tangy and spicy Korean dipping sauce that often accompanies Korean street food. These kind of pancakes are a staple market food in Korea and can be found on the streets at any time of day.
For pajeon in Seoul, head to Gwangjang Market. In Busan, you will find pajeon at Gukje Market, Dongnae Market and Bupyeong Khangtong Night Market.
By Sarah Steiner at Away With The Steiners
Entering into Korean cuisine via the Silk Road, mandu are the local version of the filled dumplings found across the Asian world and are very similar to the more famous Japanese gyoza.
For a long time mandu had a certain prestige and was served regularly in the court of the Joseon dynasty which reigned from Goryeo’s decline until Korea’s annexation by Japan in 1910.
Nowadays you can find mandu on every street corner in a huge range of varieties.
Travelers can sample fried, steamed and boiled mandu, they can try both balled and flat mandu and take their pick from a wide range of traditional and regionally based fillings.
Fried chicken made its first appearance in Korea during WW2 when there was a large amount of Americans stationed in Korea.
Today Korean Fried Chicken much like Korean BBQ is well known and popular all around the world.
What makes the Korean Chicken different is the way it is cooked. Korean fried chicken has a paper-thin crust consisting of a light dusting of flour and super thin batter, the chicken is cooked then taken out of the fryer to rest before being fried for a second time.
You will find that fried chicken comes with types of topping from garlic to chili and more, the chicken is unique, crunchy, and tasty Fried Chicken is available all over Seoul and South Korea yo.
If you’re in Seoul we recommend heading to Two Two Chicken in the Myeongdong area.
By Mark from Wyld Family Travel
Kimbap (Korean sushi)
Gimbap is often referred to as Korean sushi and is comprised of cooked rice and various other ingredients all rolled up in a gim (a dried sheet of seaweed) and served in bite-sized slices.
The origin of gimbap is uncertain. Some trace its development to the period of Japanese colonial occupation, which saw the term gimbap used interchangeably with the Japanese word norimaki.
Others point out that a very similar dish, known as bokssam, was being cooked in the Joseon era well before the Japanese arrived.
Wherever it came from, the Korean seaweed rice rolls are now a firm fixture of Korean street food, much loved for their lightness and portability.
Gyeran-ppang (Egg Bread)
When in Seoul, everyone wants to try egg bread or gyeran-ppang. A relative new-comer to the Korean street food market, egg bread has only been around for about five years.
They are, however, very popular. Usually, there is quite a line to wait for them to come hot off the cart. Gyeran-ppang is actually the name of the machine used to make egg bread.
It is a long metal pan with oblong holes in it, somewhat like a muffin pan but electric and the holes are a different shape.
The vendor will first put in a batter, very much like a sweet pancake batter and after it’s cooked a few minutes will crack one egg on top. When the egg is cooked, it’s done.
It’s often garnished with onions or even ham, but most egg bread is eaten as is. Eat it quick, it’s best when warm.
The best place to eat egg bread is from a cart near the entry of Gyeongbokgung Palace. However, we’ve found it in many places even as far-flung as Jeju Island.
By Corinne Vail of Reflections Enroute
Perhaps the most famous of all Korean foods, kimchi is made from fermented and salted vegetables like radish and cabbage and is a staple of Korean cuisine.
Traditionally stored in large earthen containers beneath the soil, kimchi has a long history in Korea.
The food gained popularity with the rise of Buddhism during the Silla dynasty, becoming a cheap, easy and tasty meal for an increasingly vegetarian population.
Kimchi changed again when Korean tastes changed with the introduction of New World spices like chili to the East Asian region. Since then it’s been often seasoned with gochugaru (chili powder).
Now the national dish of both North and South Korea, there should be no difficulty getting cheap and tasty kimchi throughout the peninsula.
Patbingsu (Shaved Ice)
Patbingsu, or bingsu, is a Korean-style shaved ice dessert. “Pat” means red bean in Korean, as it is one of the most common ingredients used for this dessert, hence it’s called often referred to as patbingsu.
A typical bingsu starts with a bowl of fine and soft shredded ice, and then a wide range of toppings are added, making it colorful and delightful.
For patbingsu, the ice is made with sweet red bean paste, condensed milk, and yellow bean powder. This makes ice that is refreshing and cooling.
Bingsu dessert stores can be found all over Korea, and bingsu is sometimes served in cafés.
It is also common for a group of friends or family to gather at these places, hanging out and chatting over a bowl of shaved ice.
The traditional patbingsu is a classic; but for something more creative, bingsu now comes in many variations and sometimes customers can choose their own combination with ingredients like seasonal fruits, azuki beans, tteok, yogurt, or even ice cream!
By Kenny from Knycx Journeying
Odeng (Fish cakes)
Fish cakes are another food that’s popular right across the continent of Asia, and Korea is no exception.
Here fish cakes are referred to as either eomuk or odeng and mix fish (mostly less fatty types like cuttlefish) with vegetables and batter before being fried in front of your eyes.
The word odeng derives from the Japanese term oden, a type of stew that often incorporates fish cakes.
For this reason, odeng seems to specifically refer to skewered fishcakes cooked in a flat Japanese style and served with broth.
The native word eomuk has been more commonly used since the Koreas regained their independence, and often refers to the round and doughy type of fish cake that’s the more popular of the two varieties.
If you haven’t tried Korean food before then Dakkochi and Tornado Potato (below) are a great introduction. Dakkochi is the Korean version of chicken skewers.
The chicken is threaded onto bamboo skewers and flame-grilled. Looking suspiciously like Japaense Yakitori, green onions (shallots or scallions) are sometimes threaded onto the skewers between the chicken pieces.
It’s the sauces that cover the chicken that make it delicious and unique to South Korea. There are two kinds of sweet sauces – sweet and spicy hot, or sweet and salty.
Gochujang (Korean red chili paste), sesame oil, and garlic are key ingredients in these sauces.
Hoeori Gamja (Tornado Potato)
Here’s a food that you might recognize, but not as Korean. The Tornado Potato sees a whole potato, spiral cut, skewered, and deep-fried, giving it all the crispness of fried chips with the portable convenience of a skewer stick.
Unbeknownst to a lot of people (myself included), the Tornado Potato was invented in Korea at some point in the mid-2000s by former bank worker Jeong Eun Suk.
Known there as hoeori gamja, it became popular on the streets of Seoul long before it graced carnivals and theme parks across the world.
Tornado potatoes are also available glazed with onion, cheese, or honey and are often served with sausage meat in the gaps between the spiraling potato.
Bungeoppang (Carp Bread)
It’s ok – Bungeoppang or carp bread – contains no carp! Instead, this pastry gets its name from its shape.
Street vendors prepare bungeoppang by pouring batter into a fish-shaped mold that rests upon a specially designed grill.
Sweetened red bean paste is then added to the center before it is cooked until golden brown. Other variants of bungeoppang contain fillings as varied as pastry cream, chocolate, or pizza topping.
Bungeoppang is thought to be a Japanese variant of the bream-shaped taiyaki (itself an adaptation of Western waffles) and was brought over during the period of Japanese rule.
Although falling into obscurity following independence, bungeoppang came back with a vengeance in the 1990s and is common in food stalls across South Korea.
Bindaetteok (Mung Bean Pancake)
Hailing from the peninsula’s north, more specifically the Pyongan region, bindae-tteok is a fried mung bean pancake (broadly known as buchimgae in Korea).
Bindae-tteok has been documented in cookbooks since at least the 17th Century and was considered a kind of poverty food, often gifted to poorer members of the community during celebrations and times of particular hardship.
Apart from mung bean shoots, bindae-tteok is also made with chopped bracken fern and flavored with garlic, soy sauce, and spring onions, and served with a variety of dipping sauces.
Similar to Japanese tempura, the word twigim refers to various things that are deep-fried, usually vegetables and seafood.
The history of twigim is unclear, and it’s probable that it has existed in one form or another as long as food has been fried in batter on the peninsula.
Deep-fried vegetables, like bugak, have long been associated with Korean temple cuisine ) where monks were sworn to a vegetarian lifestyle) but these have long since entered the realm of ordinary street food.
Today very un-Buddhist variants such as dak-twigim (deep-fried chicken) have been exported to restaurants across the world.
Noodles (Myeon or Guksu)
Noodles have been a staple food across Asia for millennia and most parts of the continent have their own specific regional varieties, based on the ingredients and inclinations of the local people.
In Korea, noodles are called guksu or myeon. The word guksu is of native Korean derivation, whereas myeon comes from Chinese and is recognisable in the Chinese mian and Japanese men.
There are a huge variety of Korean noodles, and street food stalls favorites include japchae (a sweetish side dish made from sweet potato starch), kal-guksu (knife-cut wheat noodles eaten in the summer), and naengmyeon (a cold winter dish usually made from long thin buckwheat noodles).
Gamja Hot dog (Corndog)
One of the more innovative Korean adaptions of American food is the french-fries and weiner combination called the Gamja hotdog. Pieces of potato are folded in with the batter that is wrapped around the sausage weiner.
This means that when the corndog is deep-fried, the potato pieces become tiny french fries! Strangely (but in a satisfying way) the corndog is then sprinkled with sugar.
Corndogs are also made with mozzarella and the different varieties are popular at Seoul’s night markets.
Gamja hotdogs are quickly gaining a fan bas in Taiwan, Japan, China and the US.
Walnut-shaped and walnut-looking – these wonderful baked cookies have a red bean paste inside them. The best ones also have chopped walnuts. Sweetened mung bean paste is another possible filling.
The dough is made from flour and ground walnuts.
For the last 50 years they have been sold on trains and at stations but no one seems to know why! They were first sold in Cheonan where they were created in 1934.
You can find them in the southern parts of South Korea but also in Los Angeles and San Diego.
Hodu Gwaja is eaten during the winter months and of course by travelers, as they can be found at most rest stops!
Links and Further Information
- See all of the best things to do in South Korea, from Get Your Guide
- Read about the best Indonesian Street Foods
- Read about Indonesian Food and Food Culture in Java
- Read about the best Tokyo Street Foods
- Read all about Myanmar (Burmese) cuisine
- Check out all of the Culture through Food articles
- See the Travel Resources page for all your travel booking needs.
- Check out all articles on Asia
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