Get To Know South Korea Through Its Street Food
Visiting South Korea? If you want to experience South Korea through your taste buds, you’d be missing out if you stuck to fine dining establishments. South Korea has some of the most amazing street food. It won’t cost you much but it can leave you happy and satisfied.
Get to know the best street food in South Korea in my post.
Why Is South Korean Food So Popular?
South Korean cuisine is famous for so many reasons. It’s flavorsome, comforting, and healthy. A number of their dishes also offer the ideal balance of fiber, protein, antioxidants, carbohydrates, and other essential nutrients. Plus, you can walk away from a meal feeling satisfied and full.
This is also true about South Korean street food.
4 Myths and Truths About Eating Street Food in South Korea
If you’re on a streetside gastronomic adventure in South Korea, you may come across some myths about the country’s street food. Here are four common myths and truths:
Myth #1: South Koreans eat a lot of meat, especially beef.
Truth: South Koreans eat meat, including beef, but rice is a bigger staple in their diets.
Myth #2: South Korean food is extremely spicy.
Truth: Not all South Korean dishes are spicy. You can find spicier dishes from other Asian countries, Europe, and the United States.
Myth #3: The most common sauce in South Korea is soy sauce.
Truth: South Korean cuisine has many popular sauces besides soy sauce like doenjang, gochujang, and ganjang.
Myth #4: Kimchi is a cabbage dish that has rotted.
Truth: Kimchi is fermented and not rotten, which makes it high in beneficial bacteria and great for digestion.
13 Best Street Foods in South Korea That You Must Try
Here is a list of the best street food in South Korea with savory and sweet options:
Savory Street Food
1. Kimbap 김밥
Kimbap or Korean seaweed rice rolls is a popular and flavorful South Korean snack that you will easily find at bus stations and other public places. This on-the-go meal has all kinds of fillings like chicken, ham, tuna, shrimp, fishcake, egg, avocado, pickled radish, burdock root, cucumber, and carrot.
2. Soondae 순대
One of the most popular South Korean street foods, Soondae (Korean sausage) is a staple at almost every street stall in the country.
This soft, chewy sausage is made of pig or cow intestine, filled with pork blood, and mixed with rice, glass noodles, and vegetables. It is then steamed, sliced, and often served with lung and liver pieces.
Vendors in Seoul will usually give you a blend of sesame seeds, salt, chili powder, and MSG as a dip for the sausages. Meanwhile, vendors in other cities may offer you a mix of gochujang and vinegar or a soy-based sauce for dipping.
Gangwon-do Province vendors sell ojingeo soondae that substitutes the intestines with cooked squid to hold the fillings.
3. Twigim 퇴김
Twigim or South Korean-style tempura is similar to Japanese tempura. It’s made with vegetables or meat that’s deep-fried in batter, creating a light and crispy outer shell. It is usually served with a dip or eaten with tteokbokki.
4. Myeon 면
People often eat myeon soup or noodles as a quick snack when on the move. In the winter, they dig into a bowl of janchi guksu or banquet noodles to keep them warm and satisfied. This comfort food consists of thin wheat flour noodles in an anchovy-based broth.
5. Gyeranppang 계란빵
Gyeranppang, egg muffins, or egg bread is a small, sweet, savory, and fluffy bread loaf that is commonly sold at street stalls in the winter. This dense and comforting street food features a moist egg baked on top of it and is sometimes garnished with parsley.
6. Kkochi 꼬치
Kkochi (skewers) is a favorite among Korean street food lovers. One of the staples among skewers is dak-kkochi, which is a dish featuring grilled chicken and green onion skewers dipped in a tangy barbecue sauce. Sotteok sotteok is another popular type of kkochi comprising mini sausage kebabs and rice cakes.
7. Tteokbokki 떡볶이
Tteokbokki or spicy rice cakes are a famous South Korean street food that you can easily find anywhere. Many stalls outside schools, workplaces, and hangouts sell this dish at affordable prices. The rice cakes are smothered in a bright red-orange spicy and sweet sauce made from soy sauce, water, sugar, red chili flakes, and gochujang.
If you aren’t used to spicy food, you can ask for a milder version of this chewy dish. You can also get dressed-up variations that include slices of fish cake, ramyeon (ramen noodles), boiled eggs, and so on.
8. Odeng 오뎅
Odeng aka Eomuk or fishcake is a savory winter dish usually served on a skewer. It is soft and smooth. It can come in the shape of a hot dog or is flat and folded over.
9. Dak Gangjeong 닭강정
Dak gangjeong or Korean crispy fried chicken is a double-fried snack popular in the country. Spicy, sweet, and crunchy, it features chicken with a gochujang glaze and a topping of sesame seeds and chopped peanuts.
10. Mandu 만두
Mandu is a warm and delicious dumpling that is steamed, fried, or boiled. Before it’s eaten, it’s usually dipped in soy sauce and vinegar. The most popular version of this street snack is kimchi mandu loaded with kimchi, ground pork, and green onions. You can also try kogi mandu which is filled with ground pork, ginger, and green onions.
Other versions include the soft and fluffy jjinppang mandu which is stuffed with pork, tofu, garlic, and green onions, and the sweet jjinppang with its red bean paste.
Sweet Street Food
1. Cup Bingsu 컵 빙수
Cup-bingsu or bingsu is a must-eat South Korean dessert that is rich and delectable. It combines shaved ice with frozen berry puree or syrup, diced fruits, sweetened red beans, condensed milk, and vanilla ice cream. Its fruits usually include kiwis, mangoes, figs, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, and pomegranates.
2. Bungeoppang and Gukhwa-Ppang 붕어빵&국화빵
Bungeoppang and Gukhwa-Ppang (Red Bean Waffles) are soft and crispy waffle-like pastries with a sweet red bean paste filling. Bungeoppang is fish-shaped while Gukhwa-Ppang is chrysanthemum-shaped. You’ll conveniently find these desserts in street food stalls outside subway stations and schools.
3. Hotteok 호떡
Although sometimes known as Korean doughnuts, Hotteok is more like a pancake. It has a sweet and gooey caramel filling made of brown sugar, cinnamon, and peanuts. This Busan specialty is usually eaten in the winter.
Tips To Remember if You’ve Never Tasted South Korean Food Before
Here are some tips to keep in mind if you’ve never tasted South Korean food before:
- If you’re sensitive to spicy food, you can temper the heat of a dish with rice, soup, and veggies.
- For noodle dishes with long veggies like cabbage, or huge chunks of meat, cut them into smaller, bite-sized pieces with the scissors that are provided with each meal.
- If you’re eating Korean barbecue or a grilled dish, ask your server to change your grill halfway through the meal. This will prevent the grilling meat and sauces from becoming charred.
- While eating, place your rice bowl on the table at all times.
- Use your chopsticks for dishes and a spoon for rice and soup.
With these tips, you’ll be eating like a local in no time!
Go on a Korean Street Food Tour
A food tour with a local guide is a great way to dive into Korean food culture. There are several popular options for food experiences in Korea:
Phrases To Learn if You Go to a South Korean Street Market
Here are some common phrases that you should know when going to a South Korean street market:
- Syoping-eul haleo gada: To go on a shopping spree
- Gu-ib/gu-ib: Purchase
- Sijang: Market
- Jeontong sijang: A traditional market
- Byeolugsijang: A flea market
- Ilban sangjeom: General store
- Siglyopumjeom: Grocery store
- Siglyopum gage-ui: Grocer’s
- Ppangjib: Baker’s
- Saengseongage-ui ipudeujeom: Fishmonger’s seafood store
- Chaesig yoli: Vegetarian dishes
- Beulaendeu: A brand
- Keun beulaendeu ileum: Big brand names
- Sobija: Consumer
- Kaelieo gabang: A carrier bag
- Jangbaguni: A shopping basket
- Kaunteo: A counter
- Kkaji: Until
- Cheong-guseo: A bill
- (Ilbu) byeongyeong: (Some) change
- Geum-aeg: An amount
- Gwonhada: Offer
- Geolae: A bargain
- Heungjeong-eul halyeomyeon: To get a bargain
- Bissada: Expensive
- Dubeonjjae son: Second-hand
- Saempeul: A sample
- Hwanbulhalyeomyeon: To refund
- Dowajusigess-eoyo?: Can you please help me?
- Igeosdeul-eun eolmaibnikka?: How much do they cost?
- Eolmayeyo?: How much does it cost?
- Gaseongbi joh-eungeo issnayo?: Do you have something affordable?
The inflections and pronunciations will take some getting used to but South Koreans are always delighted by foreigners who make an effort to speak the local language.
As you can see, you’d be missing out if you didn’t give South Korean street food a chance. Offering variety, rich flavors, and a healthy infusion of different nutrients, there’s nothing quite like Korean cuisine.
Give these street foods a chance and you may just find a new favorite dish!
If you enjoyed reading my guide on the best street food in South Korea and want to know more about other Asian destinations, see more of my articles on Linda Goes East.
Recommended Travel Guides for Korea
If you want to learn more about South Korea and have a handy travel guide in your pocket, check out these three options below:
DK Eyewitness Top 10 Seoul
This Top 10
Lonely Planet Korea
You really can’t go wrong with a lonely planet guide in your hand luggage! I’m a huge fan of Lonely Planet and own this guide myself. What I love is the brand-new pull-out, passport-size ‘Just Landed’ card with wi-fi, ATM and transport info – all you need for a smooth journey from airport to hotel! Buy this book.
South Korea: The Solo Girl’s Travel Guide
Calling all my solo female travel ladies out there – this guide is amazing! Part of the #1 Travel Guidebook Series for Women (and couples), this take on South Korea will help you avoid the scams, creeps, and tourist traps and skip ahead to the cities and adventures that are worth your time (and money)! Buy this book.
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