While Seoul is a city of many talents, if there’s anything worth traveling to the global capital for, it’s to savour its mouth-watering array of street foods. On every street corner, inside every subway station, and even in the shopping malls, the edible wares of hundreds of thousands of food carts (or pochangmachas) beckon with tantalising aromas: spicy-sweet tteokbokki, dough-y bungeoppang, moreish eomuk, and – of course – the famous fried chicken. With so much on offer, and only so many hours (and calories) in a day, make the most of Korea’s culinary delights with our handy guide to street food.
Truly Original Korean Street Food
New York has bagels, London has fish and chips, and Seoul has tteokbokki. Spicy, with just enough sweetness to keep you coming back for more, tteokbokki is a favourite among locals and foreigners alike. While, the doughy rice cake may give the jaw a bit of a workout, it’s a flavourful delight that warms the heart and the tongue.
If you hadn’t noticed already, fish is all the rage here in Korea. And eomuk (or Korean fish cake) is possibly our favourite way to consume it. While we 100% recommend stuffing your stomach with it, the real challenge is to enjoy it in as many different ways as possible, from skewered and in a broth (eomukguk) to deep-fried. Handy hint: Most tteokbokki has eomuk in it, so save a buck and taste two for the price of one.
Seen around the world, this roadside delicacy’s roots can be traced right back here, to Seoul. More specifically, to Myeongdong – the home of experimental street food trends. Simply, a tornado potato is a whole potato wound around a skewer and then splashed, dipped, and decorated with a tasteful selection of spices, resulting in a wholesome and salty flavour – delish!
You won’t get far in Seoul without being stopped in your tracks by the scintillating scent of fried chicken. With their own secret blend of herbs and spices, Korea is, without a doubt, the OG of this world-wide favourite. Hot tip: transform your chicken into chimaek by enjoying it with maekju (beer). If you are curious about the start of Korean fried chicken, check out 10 Mag’s article on it’s history here.
Recommended spot: Anywhere in Hongdae
Korean hot dogs:
Korean hot dogs are not your typical bun stuffed with dog, in fact they have a closer resemblance to corn dogs. But, while they are deliciously moreish, the best thing about Korean hot dogs is that there is such variation. From tornado-potato hotdogs and french-fry hot dogs to tteokbokki and deep-fried noodle hot dogs, there is a dog for everyone.
If you enjoy a more bizarre menu, then Korea won’t disappoint. We recommend diving right into the deep end and grabbing a handful of beondegi, or roasted silkworm pupae. It’s easy to mistake them for toasted, steaming nuts; however when biting down, you’re sure to get a mouthful of surprise.
Another favourite is soondae (not to be confused with the sweet, cold treat – sundae). Simply put, soondae is blood sausage – specifically pork blood. While the concept may be hard to stomach, this street food is deliciously rich and packed with flavour, even if it is a tad gory.
Those with a sweet tooth, beware. The streets of Seoul are a smorgasbord of sugary treats that are as tempting to the eye as the tastebuds. From 32cm ice-cream, frozen yoghurt, and every type of waffle imaginable to a rainbow-delight of cotton candy, all the old favourites are readily available.
However, try something a little different with this tasty treat: bungeoppang. While hotteok (호떡) (a sweet, stuffed pancake) is the most commonly enjoyed dessert in Seoul, our favourite doughy delight is bungeoppang. Similar to the Instagram-famous Japanese taiyaki, bungeoppang is a fish-shaped waffle usually stuffed with sweet red bean paste. However, it can also be enjoyed with a mouthful (the fish’s and yours) of ice-cream.