Street food is like no other - there’s nothing like picking up a snack while you’re on the go, especially when it’s homemade. Korean street food, however, is just different - and anyone who’s tried it will tell you! The culture is so popular that there are even entire alleys and streets dedicated to street food in major cities of Korea, and people will visit from all over the world just to try it!
If you haven’t had the chance to try this special part of Korean cuisine (or are just missing the taste) here are some of the tastiest Korean street foods you’re bound to love.
Korean hot dog (감자핫도그)
The Korean version of hot dog, also known as the gamja hot dog, is a filling street dish found in Seoul's streets and night markets. You might have recognized it because of K-dramas, movies, and Youtube videos. Classic sausages are coated with a chewy and thick batter made of rice flour, instead of corn. It is deep-fried in hot oil to achieve the crunchiness it needs. It has different variations like rice cakes, fish cakes, cheese, and those that have french fries.
The Korean hot dog is so popular, there are even stores selling them overseas! If you're in America, you can visit Myungrang Hot Dog and Cruncheese Korean Hot Dogs at any of their locations to try it.
Pictured above: Korean street food vendor selling Korean hot dogs and barbecue.
The Korean hot dog has spread all over the world, but if you’re interested in seeing how the OGs make it, check it out here:
Korean potato pancake (감자전)
Korean potato pancake, or gamjajeon, is most definitely a long-time favorite. With potatoes as the main ingredient, this simple yet delicious dish can be likened to the Korean version of an American hash brown, and are usually eaten with sweet and savory soy sauce dip. Traditionally, Koreans like to have this snack during a cold and depressing rainy day because it warms their bellies up.
Pictured above: A vendor cooks potato pancakes for her customers.
See the appetizing process of how the pancake is made down below:
Spicy rice cake (떡볶이)
If you like food with a little kick, these spicy rice cakes are perfect for you. These soft and chewy cakes drenched with a savory spicy sauce are used in many Korean dishes. These have been popular for on-the-go Koreans for decades, with vendors operating street carts and the spicy rice cakes being sold in modern restaurants. Spicy cakes can be made from rice or flour, which provide different chewy textures. Some vendors sell a mix of both cakes so you can choose according to your preference!
If you look for spicy rice cakes in Korea, you'll undoubtedly also see the vendors selling soondae (순대), a type of blood sausage, and eomokkoji (어묵꼬치), a kind of fried fish cake, as well as kimbap. Pick up all four of these delicious dishes and you're sure to be satisfied afterward!
Want to see how street vendors make spicy rice cakes? Watch this video - be careful not to let your mouth water!
A common meal for lunchboxes, kimbap is a Korean dish made with cooked rice and seaweed. The dish is undoubtedly well-received today, but if you were a Korean-American bringing this to school for lunch anywhere from the late 80s to early 2000s, the story was very much different. Being a traditional Korean snack, kimbap was often not received well by schoolmates because of its particular smell and foreign look. Despite the hurtful memories of being teased and feeling embarrassed, kimbap still remains a favorite and nostalgic snack for many Korean-Americans.
If you're interested in kimbap, it is the perfect quick and easy meal. The ingredients you can put in are endless, and you can make any variation according to what your tastebuds are craving; including cheese or even spam. Now, kimbap is a dish loved by everyone!
Love kimbap? Follow a kimbap street vendor as she prepares her wares:
Fun Fact: You can call the cart owners that sell spicy rice cakes and kimbap "aunties." If you don't have enough money for the normal serving or prefer to eat a smaller portion, you can ask the auntie for a smaller serving according to what you can pay!
Hoppang is a delicious steamed bread bun snack that will warm up your belly any time of year, though it is mostly eaten during the winter time. This savory food is typically filled with a classic sweet red bean paste, but it is also presented with vegetable fillings, pizza toppings, or buldak (spicy chicken).
Pictured above: A Korean street vendor selling dumplings, hoppang, and other goods.
See all the hard work that goes into making hoppang in this video!
Chicken skewers (닭꼬치)
These Korean chicken skewers are some of the most mouth–watering and wholesome Korean street foods. The char-grilled chicken skewers are usually coated with an addictively thick sweet and spicy sauce, but you can choose from non-spicy, mild, and spicy flavors. If you ever order from these carts in Korea, beware of the spiciness level. Mild might be equivalent to Spicy for people who aren’t used to Korean peppers. These skewers are often enjoyed with a shot of soju.
Pictured above: A street vendor sells barbecue skewers to customers.
Check out the making of these delicious skewers in this video!
Cup rice (컵밥)
This convenient and delicious meal has taken Korean street food lovers by storm. Students and those preparing for state exams often have cup rice for a meal as it’s cheap and tasty. Kimchi fried rice is usually the base and it is topped with extra ingredients such as ham, sausage, eggs, or tuna.
Want to see how this food is prepared? Check out the video below to see!
Kimchi pancake (김치전)
Kimchi pancakes are often found as sides at food stalls and Korean bars where they are best paired with soju or makgeolli, a light and sparkling rice wine. These pancakes can be made with two simple ingredients: kimchi and flour batter. They can also be changed up by adding different vegetables, meat and even seafood to get a more versatile and wholesome taste.
Pictured above: A vendor prepares various types of Korean pancakes at her stall.
See the mouthwatering process of how kimchi pancakes are made here:
Tornado potato (회오리 감자)
Named tornado potato for its unique shape, this fun Korean street food is a pleasure to snack on. The main ingredient is simple, with the eponymous potato put on a stick and then thinly sliced to create a spiral shape. This fried potato masterpiece is very versatile, with customers eating it with ketchup, mayonnaise, and many other types of seasonings!
Pictured above: Street vendors cook the famous tornado potato for sale.
Below is a video where you can see this tasty food prepared by a food stall in Korea.
Carp bread (붕어빵)
Carp bread, another popular Korean winter street food, is a fish-shaped pastry typically stuffed with sweetened red bean paste. Carp bread’s popularity has skyrocketed, and enthusiasts nationwide even created a “carp bread map” with ratings and locations for other people to reference when finding their new spot!
Here’s a video that shows you how vendors prepare and cook the carp bread.
Carp bread has become so popular that it has even been featured on television, as seen by Mamamoo’s Hwasa in the series “Home Alone.”
Interested in trying these foods but don't know where to start? Gwangjang Market in Seoul is one of the premier street food markets that Koreans and foreigners alike go to try this cheap and delicious food.