One good thing about travelling in Seoul is that even if you do not go into any restaurants, you can still eat delicious food and at a cheap price, too. I am talking about the street food which are sold in mobile food carts on the street. There are a wide variety of street food you can choose from and the prices range from 500 won to 3,000 won which are good value for money. While I was studying in Seoul, sometimes I was so full after eating street food that I just skipped my lunch or dinner. In this post, I will talk about some of my favourite Korean street food – I can’t take spicy food so you may note that the Korean street food introduced in this post are non-spicy.
Tornado potato (회오리 감자)
Tornado potato get its name because the spiral-cut potato wrapping around a long stick looks like the swirling tornado. It is deep-fried and before serving, it is dipped in powdered cheese. It tastes like thick potato chips and is very delicious. There is another version with a sausage in the middle, so is called “tornado sausage potato” (회오리 소세지 감자).
Strawberry Mochi (딸기 모찌)
There is Korean glutinous rice cake called “chapsaltteok”(찹쌀떡) with red bean paste inside. The strawberry mochi is an adapted version with a whole strawberry and red bean paste inside. The term “mochi” is in fact borrowed from the Japanese term “mochi”(もち) which refers to Japanese-style glutinous rice cake. Originally, there was only one shop near Hotel Skypark Central in Myeongdong selling the strawberry mochi and you could always see a long queue outside the shop. Due to its popularity, you can now find some mobile food carts selling the strawberry mochi on the street of Myeongdong as well.
Hotteok is sweet Korean-style pancake made of glutinous rice filled with brown sugar, honey, cinnamon, and peanuts, so it is sweet. There are some other adapted versions made with fillings like cheese or vegetables but I like the original version more. The hawker puts the fillings into the dough which is then put into some hot oil to cook and is pressed into the shape of a round flat pancake using a disc-like equipment. However, sometimes, I saw the hawker pressing the dough using his/her own hand – perhaps he/she has already got used to the hot oil!
Egg bread (계란빵)
Egg bread looks like a baked muffin with a whole egg either inside or on top of it. It is delicious but as it has a whole egg, you may feel full after eating it.
Fish bread (붕어빵)
Fish bread is a fish-shaped waffle with red bean paste fillings, and is crispy and sweet. There are some other versions with ice cream or yogurt fillings. When eating fish bread, friends like to discuss which part of the fish bread (e.g., head, tail, fin or stomach) they will eat first to see if they share the same eating habit.
Fish cake (오뎅 – Odeng)
Odeng is fish cake on a skewer cooked in soup flavoured with radishes and kelp, and if you like stronger taste, you can dip the fish cake in soy sauce or spicy sauce before eating. The food carts selling odeng also offer the soup (which is served in paper cups) free of charge with any food order, and you can have refills if you like. The soup is tasty and is especially good for keeping you warm during the cold winter. The term “odeng” is borrowed from the Japanese “oden”(おでん) which is a Japanese dish with several ingredients like boiled egg, daikon (winter radish), and fish cakes cooked in hot soup, though the Korean version “odeng” has only fish cakes. Sometimes, this is referred to as “eomuk” (어묵), which is a native Korean term.
I really miss the Korean street food very much – they are tasty, good value for money and most of them are made on the spot so freshly made. In a recent survey by the Korea Tourism Organization, about 54 percent of the respondents said they would like to try Korean street food. If you travel to South Korea, don’t forget to try the Korean street food. Happy eating! 🙂
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Kim Eun-jung, “Foreigners in South Korea most interested in street food: survey“, Yonhap News Agency, 2016-03-22
“Warm-up this winter with some tasty Korean treats“, Korean Tourism Organization, 2015-12-06
Keith Kim, “Complete Guide to Korean Street Food with Pictures“, Seoulistic, 2013-10-03