I recently returned from my first trip to Seoul, and I have to say, it immediately became one of my favorite cities in the world. It’s no secret I’m a big foodie, and I especially love Korean food, but I had no idea just how good the food would be – especially the street food! We basically tried everything we walked past, and some street vendors we went out of our way to go back to multiple times during our stay. One thing to note about Seoul street food is that it’s usually snack size (though you could make a meal out of it depending on how much you eat!), catering to those trying to eat while getting from point A to point B. There are absolutely street food vendors that serve full meals (especially the pop-up carts that come out around dusk), but most of what you’ll find from the street carts are foods on a stick or served in a small bowl/cup with a large toothpick so you can eat as you walk. Keep reading for my favorite bites, both sweet and savory!
The Sweet Stuff
- Hotteok: this is the most perfectly fluffy sweet pancake that you will ever taste in your life. It’s filled with this gooey brown sugar, cinnamon, honey, and peanut mixture, and it’s absolute heaven. You can find them all over the city, but if you find yourself in the Ikseon-dong/Nakwon-dong areas, check out the street carts on Supyo-ro, just south of Donhwamun-ro 11-gil. We went every morning and started our day with a fresh hotteok
- Bubble Hotteok: this was by no means as much of a hit as the regular hotteok, but it was still tasty and cost under $1, so it’s worth trying if you pass a cart selling it. This version is crispy, hollow inside, and the one we tried had a bit of honey rubbed onto the insides
- Gyeran-Bbang: this Korean egg bread can be found all over. It has an entire egg in it and is partially made with cake batter, so it’s part savory and sweet (though mostly the latter). We kept seeing it but didn’t try it until our last day, and I wish we’d tried it earlier so I could have had it more than once!
- Black Sesame Creme Glacee: we were both initially a little skeptical about trying black sesame ice cream, but we figured hey, when in Korea! And we ended up loving it. Not too powerful, just the right amount of sesame flavor, and the perfect treat to cool you down on a hot summer day. There’s a great shop (you order from a window) in the Ikseon-dong Hanok Village
- Kkultarae: part of what makes this treat so great is getting to watch the guys make it. It’s essentially a block of hardened honey, which they then kneed, stretch, and twist with cornstarch so it makes this stringy goodness of over 16,000 strings. It’s then cut into multiple chunks, each of which are filled with various flavors like sesame seeds, nuts, chocolate….you name it. You get 10 in a box (they keep for several months in the fridge), and they’re absolutely delightful!
- Sticky Rice Balls: these little balls of goodness are absolutely delightful, and they’re exactly what they sound like – they’re sweet and fried to perfection. We found them on a side street just outside of Bukchon Hanok Village and never saw them again, unfortunately, If i’d known that, I would have bought more, they were that good!
The Savory Stuff
- Tteokbokki/Dukbokki: we discovered tteokbokki about a year and a half ago thanks to Blue Apron, and we’ve been obsessed ever since, so we knew we wanted to eat as much of it as possible while in Korea. These soft rice cakes are so so delightful, often cooked in a spicy gochugang sauce and mixed with fish cakes (though occasionally you can find them with a soy-based sauce as well). This is hugely popular in Korea, so most every food cart will have them
- Mandu: these are Korean dumplings, and you can find them either steamed, boiled, pan-fried, or deep-fried, depending on the street vendor. Flavors range from pork to kimchi, and the seller will cut them in half with scissors before serving them to you. Like tteokbokki, mandu is incredibly popular, so you wont have a hard time finding these dumpling delights
- Twigim: these are deep-fried vegetables (think tempura), and they’re delicious. They can get pretty greasy, but the vegetable cakes specifically were a big hit with us. If you’re on Insadong-gil, make a right onto Yulgok-ro, and there’s a woman there who serves the best twigim!
- Hweori Gamja: this delicious treat is often called a tornado potato, but it’s essentially a full potato, sliced thinly on a spiral and spread out along a large stick (easily a foot and a half long, if not longer!). They’re fried, and then coated with your choice of flavoring (usually cheese or onion). Any of the major food streets will have them
- Eomuk Tang: these are fish cake skewers, sometimes served in a small cup of broth, and they can be found in most street carts. They do tend to have a pretty fishy taste, so beware if that’s not something you’re a big fan of, otherwise they’re very traditional Korean street food, so worth giving them a try. A lot of carts will have a soy-based sauce you can brush on top of them to cut some of the fish flavor as well
- Yangnyeom Tongdak: this popular dish is Korean fried chicken that is double-fried and served in a cup with tteokbokki. I’m a pescatarian, but it was a HUGE hit with my boyfriend who said it was one of his favorite things he ate in Seoul
- Dakkochi: these are chicken kebabs, grilled and then served on a stick with a sweet and spicy sauce. This is another one I of course did not try but that my boyfriend loved immensely (disclaimer: the photo quality on this one stinks…sorry)
- Bindaetteok: there are several different pancakes you can get from street vendors, but these mung bean pancakes are delicious. They’re also usually huge and insanely deep fried, so grab some extra napkins and a friend to share with!
- Fried Seafood Plates: this isn’t a Korean specialty, but one of our favorite things about staying in Nakwon-dong was that in the late afternoon every day, street carts pop up all along the sidewalks, and plastic chairs and tables fill the street. Most of the vendors serve a variety of foods, including the best fried calamari and shrimp we’ve ever had
- And they aren’t really street foods, but you can’t visit Korea and NOT try the Korean BBQ and Bibimbap. Nothing better than getting to choose from SO many mix-ins! Even for me as a vegetarian, there’s so much kimchi, eggs, and fish soup to enjoy with the Korean BBQ that you still manage to get full off of sides alone!
What are your favorite Seoul street foods?