Life is too short – don’t miss out on these irresistible 21 mouth-watering Korean Street Foods next time you’re in South Korea! From ice cream (the most popular Korean street food) to authentic blood sausage, irresistible piping-hot pancakes, and every kind of treat on sticks, Korean street food is fun to eat, fresh, and one of the very best parts about traveling in this unusual and beautiful country. And if you’re stuck at home, and thousands of miles away from any Korean street vendors – now you know what to order tonight!
- Korean Street Food: Traditional, American-inspired, and where to find it
- 21 Popular Korean Street Foods You Must Try
- Traditional street foods
- Western-style street food
- Candy and Cookies
- Desserts and Ice Cream
- Further Resources
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In this article, some of the world’s best food and Korean travel writers share their top 21 Korean street food dishes. But first, a quick intro to the kinds of street food you’ll find in South Korea, and where you can head to try it.
Korean Street Food: Traditional, American-inspired, and where to find it
South Korean street food vendors serve up delicious Korean street food that is part of Korean culture, much of which can be seen on the street of Seoul.
Traditional street foods such as roasted sweet potatoes, glutinous or spicy rice cakes, dalgona ( a Korean fish shaped pastry), and Korean steamed buns can be found in traditional markets such as Myeongdong as well as the Busan permanent night market and the Seoul Bamdokkaebi night market.
There are also dedicated street food streets, tented areas, and food trucks serving everything from fish cake and Korean sweet pancakes to the Korean version of Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Tip: You’ll see Korean street toast (gilgeori toast) at many street food vendors. It’s an egg pancake with carrots added and a topping of sugar and ketchup. It’s famous street food for kids and eaten for breakfast or lunch.
After the Korean War in the 1950s, two things happened, The first is that street food became common and it provided struggling people with affordable meals.
But after the Korean War, American influence also entered the Korean street food scene and ever since then there has been a range of whackey and fun American fast food-inspired Korean street food.
Korean corn dogs, Korean deep fries, and Cheese-tteok-kkochi (grilled cheese and rice cake skewers) are just some of the Korean dishes modeled on western food that you’ll find sold by most street vendors as you wander the markets and streets of Seoul.
21 Popular Korean Street Foods You Must Try
Traditional street foods
One of the best Korean street food to try is definitely tteokbokki, a type of stir fry mainly consisting of fish cake and rice cake. 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 spicy sauce they’re soaked in.
Rice cakes are one of the most common foods in Korea, especially spicy rice cakes and rice cake skewers. tteokbokki is the most popular way of eating rice cakes as street food.
It is adventurous Korean street food but, if you don’t like tteokbokki on the first try, it’s definitely 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. Korean street food 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?
Sundae (Soondae) (Blood sausages)
Korean street food doesn’t come much more authentic than this! Traditionally eaten during festivals and celebrations, sundae is a kind of blood sausage made from cooked pig blood, mince, glass noodles, and rice or barley.
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 blood sausage is often made from domestic pigs and cows and comes in a number of different regional varieties, incorporating vegetarian and seafood options.
Entering Korean cuisine via the Silk Road, mandu is the local version of the filled dumplings found across the Asian world and are very similar to the more famous Japanese gyoza.
For many years mandu (or Korean dumplings) had a certain prestige and was served 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 these Korean dumplings 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.
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.
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 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).
Kimchi fried rice (김치볶음밥, gimchibokkeumbap) comes with toppings like a whole egg fried on top, or seaweed or sesame seeds. Now the national dish of both North and South Korea, there should be no difficulty getting cheap and tasty kimchi throughout the peninsula.
Odeng (Fish Cakes)
Fish cakes are fried snacks popular right across the continent of Asia, and Korea is no exception.
Here fish cakes are referred to as either eomuk or odeng and mixed 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 Japanese 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.
Similar to Japanese tempura, the word twigim refers to various things that are deep-fried, usually vegetables such as sweet potatoes 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 recognizable 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).
In a country known for its delectable street food, you can’t miss the opportunity to try a true South Korean specialty: hotteok.
Everyone who comes to South Korea should taste this irresistible Korean street food. 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 in Insadong or the Bukchon Hanok Village.
By Tegan + Alex at Why Not Walk Travel Guides
Pancakes are a favorite 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 is 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 is especially popular in Busan.
Pajeon is usually served with Cho-gochujang; a sweet, tangy, and spicy Korean dipping sauce that often accompanies Korean street food. These kinds 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
Bindaetteok (Mung Bean Pancakes)
Hailing from the peninsula’s north, more specifically the Pyongan region, bindae-tteok are fried mung bean pancakes (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 ground mung beans, 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.
Western-style street food
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 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 and 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 throughout South Korea.
If you’re in Seoul we recommend heading to Two Two Chicken in the Myeongdong area.
By Mark from Wyld Family Travel
Gamja Hot Dog (Corndog)
One of the more innovative Korean adaptions of American food is the french-fries and weiner combination called the Gamja hot dog. 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.
The phenomenon of the Gamja hot dog is going global and is gaining a fan base in Taiwan, Japan, China, and the US.
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.
The Tornado Potato was invented in Korea at some point in the mid-2000s by former bank worker Jeong Eun Suk. Known 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.
Gyeran-ppang (Egg Bread)
When in Seoul, everyone wants to try egg bread or gyeran-ppang. A relative newcomer to the Korean street food market, egg bread is also called egg cake and is 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 the 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
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.
Candy and Cookies
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 becomes 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 Sam Glauser from My Flying Leap
Dalgona (Korean sponge candy)
Dalgona is a fun Korean street food 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’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
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!
Desserts and Ice Cream
Patbingsu (Shaved Ice)
Patbingsu 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 patbingsu 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. Patingsu dessert stores can be found all over Korea, and patbingsu 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, patbingsu 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
Bingsu (Ice Cream)
It might surprise you to know that ice cream is by far the most popular Korean street food! The Korean word for ice cream is “bingsu.” And while Patbingsu is the ‘traditional’ form of ice cream, South Koreans love to eat their ice cream in bizarre shapes from ice cream roles and cookies to fish and corn-shaped ice cream bars.
Korean ice cream comes not just in unusual shapes, consistencies, and colors, but the popular dish also comes in dozens of flavors. Some of these flavors are instantly recognizable as “South Korean,” such as matcha ice cream.
Softree is an ice cream chain that sells organic milk and honey soft ice cream and can be found in several countries. In the frozen section of convenience stores, you will find a bewildering array of ice cream bars – even a Jaws ice cream bar!
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