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TOP 15 street foods you should go to South Korea for

24.09.2020
Colorful billboards on the street of Seoul at night
© DiegoMariottini / Shutterstock

It is impossible to imagine the Republic of Korea without its national cuisine, the popularity of which has gone far beyond the peninsula. As in other Asian countries, it is based on rice, seafood, and meat. At the same time, these dishes can hardly be described as healthy food due to the abundance of oil, carbohydrates, and hot spices.

In order to get acquainted with South Korean culture, it is essential to pay attention to street food tasting. It is expected that tourists will experience a guaranteed explosion of emotions. In turn, it can be explained by the fact that people will have the opportunity to see very strange things on the traders' stalls — maggots, sweet fish, potato spirals, unusual rolls, strange hot dogs, and amazing ice cream.

Tteokbokki

This dish belongs to the list of the most popular Korean food. Its basis is Garae-tteok — rice flour products in the form of white sticks with a neutral taste. They are usually sold as convenience foods in supermarkets. To prepare Tteokbokki, it is significant to combine Garae-tteok with a paste of fermented soybeans and chili peppers (gochujang). This dish used to be available only to kings and courtiers, although it is one of the cheapest options for a snack today. Most frequently, street vendors sell Tteokbokki in sauce, skewered on special sticks for convenient consumption. Odeng, boiled eggs, green onions, and noodles can also be added to this dish. By the way, tourists should be prepared for the fact that this is a spicy dish that can be considered inedible by some individuals.

The black bowl or dish and placed on a wooden tray
Hot and spicy Stir-fried rice cake (Tteokbokki) © bump23 / Shutterstock

Gimbap

It is very similar to Japanese sushi, which is why these dishes are often confused. One of the main differences is based on the fact that gimbap is easy to eat on the go without using chopsticks. The second difference is that it is consumed without soy sauce. Thirdly, gimbap does not contain raw fish and seafood. In fact, the main component of this roll is rice, seasoned with sesame oil. When it comes to the filling, tourists can order this dish with beef or tuna, squid, cheese, kimchi, takuan, carrots, cucumber, crab sticks, spinach, and other ingredients. Besides, these ingredients are wrapped in nori sheets. Usually, gimbap is sold as a triangle or roll cut into slices.
Rolls with sauce
Korean food (gimbap, kimbap) © norikko / Shutterstock

Kkochi eomuk

It is a traditional Korean food that can be found in almost all street stalls. Due to its specific appearance, it is difficult to confuse this dish with something else. It is important to note that this food is especially popular in winter because of its warming effect. So what is kkochi eomuk? It can be described as flat cakes made of fish paste with spices. It is usually strung on skewers, which are boiled in broth. Green onions, chili peppers, gochujang paste, radish, and seaweed are often added to this dish. Koreans value kkochi eomuk as a traditional hangover cure.
Dish on skewers in a cauldron on a gas stove
Kkochi eomuk © k-stolu.com
Inexpensive korean street food of fish cake in winter
Kkochi eomuk © NothingIsEverything / Shutterstock

Pajeon

It is a variation of Korean pancakes. They consist of wheat and rice flour, eggs, as well as lots of onions. Pajeon does not contain pepper, so it can be bought in any place without fear of experiencing a fire in the mouth. However, these pancakes are fried in a large amount of oil, which is perfectly absorbed into the egg-flour mixture. Due to the high content of fat, they often serve as a snack for alcoholic beverages. There is also a kind of pajeon with seafood (octopus, shrimp, and squid), which is called haemul pajeon.

Fried in a pan, vegetable pancake with seafood
Pajeon © TMON / Shutterstock

Gyeran-ppang

It is a great breakfast option and one of the best variations of vegetarian Korean food. Gyeran-ppang is a golden bun with a chicken egg on top, while the yolk remains quite liquid. Sometimes ham, cheese, and parsley are added to this dish. This bun is always served as a warm or hot dish that tastes sweet and salty at the same time. Like kkochi eomuk, this dish is quite warming.

A popular Korean dessert in metal molds
Korean dessert Gyeran-ppang © Pee Poti / Shutterstock

Bungeoppang

Surely numerous people have seen these goldfish on social networks. In fact, these sweet fried cakes usually contain a dark mass that resembles chocolate. It often confuses travelers who rush to buy bungeoppang in hope for a sweet taste. However, there is a red bean paste inside the cakes; it can seem quite specific. At the same time, Koreans consider it as one of the favorite toppings for a variety of desserts. In order to enjoy Bungeoppang to the fullest extent, it is recommended to buy the freshly baked dish when the crust is crisp and the filling is warm. Sometimes you can find options of this dish with nut butter or cream, but the classic recipe with beans remains the most correct.

Fish-shaped bread with sweet red bean filling
Korean style pancake (Bungeoppang) © MAVRITSINA IRINA / Shutterstock

Mandu

Nowadays, this dish belongs to the list of the best Korean food. In fact, it is represented by products stuffed with pork, onions, and kimchi. Besides, people have the opportunity to find mandu with tofu, red beans, pork, ginger, mushrooms, seafood, and cabbage on street stalls. Mandu is usually steamed, but it can also be deep-fried. The best accompaniment to these "dumplings" is soy or oyster sauce, as well as sesame oil.

Typical Korean Street Food on Seoul Street
Mandu © Elizaveta Galitckaia / Shutterstock

Odeng

This dish is widely known as hot fish cakes with spices and vegetables, which are skewered. In terms of composition and taste, they are similar to kkochi eomuk, which is sometimes also called odeng or oden. It is essential to note that odeng is also a winter dish because these patties are served with fish broth and green onions. It is often consumed with Korean rice alcohol soju.
Street food stall in Hongdae street
Fish cakes Odeng © Tuangtong Soraprasert / Shutterstock

Tornado Potato

It is an unusual analog of chips, as this dish is represented by a thin spiral of potatoes on a skewer, deep-fried until crispy. Tornado Potato is sprinkled with spices, usually with a spicy cheese flavor. Sometimes, it is combined with a barbecue flavor, onion, or just salt. This relatively new dish comes from Seoul.

Thai spiral potato fried
Crispy fries Tornado Potato © Krieng Meemano / Shutterstock

Beondegi

Perhaps it is the most specific representative of South Korean street food. Beondegi is silkworm pupae cooked with hot spices. Usually, this dish is sold in small cellophane bags or paper boxes. By the way, these insects do not have a very appetizing appearance. Moreover, the unpleasant smell of this dish can scare off an unprepared person. Sometimes, canned beondegi can be found in supermarkets, although some restaurants offer them as a side dish.

Korean street food made with silkworm pupae as boiled or steamed
Beondegi in a frying pan © NothingIsEverything / Shutterstock

Sannakji

This dish can compete with beondegi for first place in the ranking of the most unusual street dishes. In some cases, it can even be life-threatening. Sannakji is alive octopus cut into pieces, seasoned with sesame oil, and sprinkled with sesame seeds. Even the cut-off parts of the mollusk move for a couple of hours and cling to all surfaces with suckers. With careless use of Sannakji, there were cases of strangulation, when pieces of an octopus blocked the airways of a person. This dish must be chewed very carefully before swallowing. Vendors serve it with spicy Ssamjang paste and green tea. Furthermore, it serves as a snack for alcohol.
Octopus in a toe and red sauce and sesame seeds
Sannakji with sauce © successo images / Shutterstock
Sliced octopus in sesame and greens sauce
Octopus in a spicy paste © successo images / Shutterstock

Gamja dog

Most of all, this South Korean food resembles an American corn dog. Its basis is a sausage, strung on a skewer. But unlike the overseas counterpart, which has a dough shell, gamja dogo is fried in French fries. It can be topped with ketchup, mustard, or mayonnaise.

Korean street food: hot dogs (gamja dogs)
Korean hot dogs Gamja dog © Alexander Olshevskiy / Shutterstock

Jipangi

It is the famous ice cream that became popular on social networks, not because of its taste, as one might think, but because of the shape of the cone. It is made from corn in the form of a large cane, similar to the handle of an umbrella. Most often, chocolate and vanilla fillings are added to this ice cream.

Spiral ice cream cone
The 'Jipangi' foot long ice cream cone shop at Insadong area © happycreator / Shutterstock
Two cones of pink ice cream
Jipangi ice cream © scontent.fymy1-1.fna.fbcdn.net

Hotteok

Hotteok is a Korean street food that belongs to the group of desserts. It is a sweet pancake stuffed with cane sugar and cinnamon that turns into granular caramel. Besides, you can find red bean paste, black sesame seeds, peanuts, walnuts, honey, and sunflower seeds inside the pancake.

Spring Pancake Korean Dessert
Korean food Hotteok © Pitapat / Shutterstock

Chimaek

The name of this dish is derived from two words: the English word “chicken” and Korean word “맥주” (maegju) — beer. For example, сhimaek is a popular combination of fried chicken and beer. The meat is usually served with honey sauce, sesame seeds, garlic, peanuts, and chili flakes. In turn, it gets a crispy crust due to double roasting. In addition to chicken, you can order fries.

Fried chicken pieces with sauce and beer
Chimaek with beer © i.pinimg.com / Shutterstock