| What’s the best way to survive Korea’s long and cold winters? Try a freshly roasted sweet potato or one of the countless other decades-old snacks sold by Korean street vendors. And don’t forget to stock up on kimchi by participating in gimjang, the yearly kimchi making ritual occurring right before the cold sets in. Read on to learn more about how to eat yourself to health and happiness this winter!
Winter Street Snacks
After the frost sets in, a common sight along streets include popular winter snacks such as baked sweet potatoes, roasted chestnuts, hoppang (steamed buns) and bungeo-ppang (red bean in fish-shaped wafer). Despite Korea’s rapid development, these traditional snacks remain almost unchanged, and bring back childhood memories for Koreans who stops for a bite. Warm up while taking a bite of traditional Korean culture!
Bungeo-ppang / Ingeo-ppang (fish-shaped wafer filled with sweet red bean paste)
(붕어빵) or ingeo-ppang
(잉어빵), also known as hwanggeum Ingeo-ppang (goldfish-shaped bun), is made of dough from wheat flour and glutinous rice flour and is filled with red bean paste. Bungeo-ppang is chewier than hoppang because of the glutinous rice (sticky rice) flour. Bungeo-ppang carts can be seen all over the streets of Seoul as they fill the streets with a delicious aroma. Five bungeo-ppang usually sell for a mere 2,000 KRW!
Some believe the way one eats their bungeo-ppang says a lot about one’s character. Head first or tail first? Those enjoying the snack head first are considered positive and passionate individuals while tail first are likely to be sensitive, romantic and fashionable. Its fun to notice what your friends choose!
[ For Fun ] Bungeo-ppang Character Analysis
*Eats head first: Easy-going optimist, unconcerned with trivial things, says whatever comes to mind. Has passion, but it can dwindle easily.
*Eats tail first: Cautious. A romanticist concerned with the fine details; is slow in catching onto other’s feelings.
*Eats stomach first: Masculine, active, bright, and outgoing.
*Eats fins first: Temperamental and childish; a loner.
*Split in half and eats tail first: Polite, good at saving money, and a rationalist.
*Split in half and eats head first: Strong willed who follows through with plans. Stingy, and does not like to lend money.
Hoppang (steamed bun)
Along with the cold winds and early sunsets, hoppang
(호빵) is a sign that winter has arrived in Korea. Although there is no specific reason why hoppang is a favored winter snack, it rarely appears during other seasons. Hoppang is made of wheat flour dough and usually filled with red bean paste. Other types of fillings include vegetable, pizza flavor, curry, and more. A hoppang usually costs ￦700 ~ ￦1000 and are found in convenience stores or minimarts.
Baked Sweet Potatoes and Roasted Chestnuts
Chestnuts are harvested in autumn and sweet potatoes are ripe for gathering in November. Thus, late fall begins the roasted chestnuts (군밤)
and baked sweet potatoes season.
Roasted chestnuts take a long time to cook thoroughly. This ensures not only a tastier flavor, but also ease in peeling later. They are usually sold in small paper bags for 2,000 to 3,000 KRW.
Baked sweet potatoes (군고구마) are usually cooked in a large iron barrel-like container. Baked sweet potatoes taste sweeter than steamed sweet potatoes and are best enjoyed hot. Prices vary based on size but generally cost 2,000 KRW for 3 potatoes.
Both of these snacks are often sold near residential areas, subway stations and schools.
Tteokbokki (spicy Korean rice cakes)
is one of the most famous dishes in Korea. It has a very distinctive spicy, yet sweet flavor. Garae Tteok are long, white rice cakes that are sliced and boiled, and are traditionally served on New Year’s Day. However, garae tteok can be enjoyed year round in Tteokbokki where they are mixed with eomuk, boiled fish paste and various fried items, then marinated with red pepper paste and finally stirred together over a fire. It is served with a hot cup of broth the eomuk was boiled in. The dish is especially popular during the winter as the warm tteokbokki and accompanying soup warm the body and quickly satisfy an empty stomach. It’s a dish enjoyed by people of all ages. Tteokbokki vendors can be found on many busy street corners in Seoul, and especially in the Myeong-dong and Jongno areas. The dish usually ranges from 2,500 to 3,000 KRW per serving with complimentary refills of eomuk broth.
Kkochi Eomuk (skewered fish cake)
As the cold winter winds and freezing weather settle in, Koreans begin to crave delicious eomuk
(어묵) skewers. Eomuk is prepared on skewers then boiled with radishes and kelp. This creates the special broth which is often sipped while having the skewers. The eomuk is not spicy like Tteokbokki, so even youngsters and people not accustomed to spicy food can enjoy. Others feel the Eomuk and tteokbokki’s tastes compliment each other well. Try to select an eomuk skewer that has brewed in the broth for some time and dip it in soy sauce for added flavor.
Eomuk skewers usually cost anywhere from 500 to 1000 KRW, and are often sold in the same stands as Tteokbokki.
Hotteok (Korean-style sugar pancake)
(호떡) is a simple and sweet snack traditionally eaten in the winter. During the winter, places such as Insa-dong are dotted with Hotteok vendors. Hotteok is made with dough from glutinous (sticky) rice flour, pressed into a round patty filled with a paste made from sugar, peanuts, and cinnamon, which is then fried in oil. Caution! The hot brown-sugar filling is often very hot. Hotteok usually costs 700 to 1,000 KRW.
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