Travel Essentials: 5 Korean Winter Street Foods You Must Try

Hotteok - Photo by Charles Haynes

The Pyeongchang Winter Olympics is officially on! Our Melbourne writer Anastasia is currently travelling in Seoul, shivering through bitterly cold winter nights – in the third part of her Travel Essential series, Ana gives us a list of her favourite comfort-food must-haves, perfect for battling the chill in South Korea.

호떡 (Hotteok)

Hotteok is a sweet, warm, chewy treat that is sure to warm you from the inside out. Made with glutinous rice dough and a sugary, honey-like syrup (I am sure they also put magic in there somewhere), Hotteok is subsequently fried and served piping hot in a convenient paper cup, ready to bite into. All-in-all, it makes for a deliciously delightful experience, provided that you don’t burn your tongue on the syrup inside. It’s like a doughnut, but infinitely more scrumptious, and quite cheap too at around 1,000-2000 Won each.  

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계란 빵 (Gyerang Bbang)

When I first tried this snack, I have to admit I was a little sceptical of the hype behind this much loved winter food.  

“It’s just an egg in bread!” I exclaimed, looking down at the streaming bun in my hand. My companion looked at me with an all-knowing eye, taking a great big bite of his own steamed bread.

“You have no idea,” he said between chewing. I, in-turn, decided to take a bite too.

Oh, how ignorant I was indeed. Gyerang bbang is not just an egg in bread. The bun is soft, fluffy, light, and delicately sweetened. This, in combination with natural saltiness of the bouncy yellow yolk is unbelievably delicious; together, these two basic elements melt in your mouth; such sweet simplicity! I can guarantee you will be going back for more.

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고구마 (Goguma)

Walking around Seoul in Winter, you will often encounter the deliciously warm scent of one of Korea’s ultimate comfort foods – goguma. Baked sweet potato is the epitome of moreish comfort food; sweet, starchy, soft, and deliciously filling, goguma is best eaten straight out of the oven. It also serves the purpose of warming your hands while you are outside!

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떡볶이 (Tteokbokki)

Tteokbokki is one Korea’s most well-known, most-loved dishes. Like magic, it has the ability to defrost my whole body even when it’s -16 degrees and snowing. Translated as “stir-fried rice cake”, tteokbokki is a deliciously spicy, vibrant red dish made with chewy, cylinder-shaped rice cake called garaetteok. There are many different varieties of tteokbokki, with some additional ingredients including  ramen, dumplings, boiled eggs, and seafood. Fair warning, it is fairly spicy. At the same time is saucy, hot, and so yum. Regardless of the season, you must try tteokbokki before leaving South Korea.

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붕어빵/잉어빵 (Bungeoppang/Ingeoppang)

When you first glance at bungeoppang you would be forgiven for thinking this was a savoury snack; its name, translated as “carp bread”, is given because of its fish-shaped appearance. However, these fishy treats contain absolutely no fish at all and are actually scrumptiously sweet (and incredibly addictive).

The bread is crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and filled with a variety of flavours. The standard, more traditional filling is red-bean paste, but now you can find many different varieties of this deliciously doughy snack, including custard and chocolate.