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Warm-up this Winter with Some Tasty Korean Treats

In Korea, with the arrival of winter’s cold bite comes a variety of winter seasonal snacks and foods. The savory and sweet winter street snacks like bungeoppang, hotteok, baked sweet potatoes, and hoppang, along with the traditional winter dishes such as gimjang kimchi, tteokguk, and manduguk are some of the most loved warming winter treats. Read on to learn more about winter foods in Korea that bring back childhood memories for Koreans and help everyone forget about the chilly winter weather.

Winter Street Snacks

  • Bungeoppang

    A common scene during winter in Korea is seeing vendors making bungeoppang (붕어빵) along busy streets. Bungeoppang is made by pouring flour dough into the bungeo (carp)-shaped black cast iron mold and filling it with red bean paste. While its red bean paste filling recipe may be similar to that of danpatppanng (bread filled with red bean paste), a bite of bungeoppang packs a distinctly warm and sweet taste. Bungeoppang can vary slightly in shape and color depending on the amount of flour used and the baking time, but the taste is always sure to please.

    For many Koreans, the sight of freshly baked bungeoppang and its sweet aroma wafting through the crisp winter air is a signal that winter has truly arrived. Nowadays, you can find a diverse variety of bungeoppang such as ingeoppang (잉어빵), mini-bungeoppang, and bungeoppang filled with ingredients other than the traditional red bean paste. Prices vary by region, but 3 to 5 bungeoppang usually sell for 2,000 won. Also, see below for a fun way to test your friends when eating bungeoppang.

    A Fun Bungeoppang Personality Test!
    It is said that the way someone eats their bungeoppang tells a lot about that person’s personality. Head first or tail first? Those who bite into the head first are said to be positive and passionate individuals, and those who go for the tail first are likely to be sensitive, romantic, and fashionable. Next time you eat this tasty treat, give yourself and your friends the bungeoppang personality test.

  • Hoppang

    As the air turns cool and crisp and snow begins to fall, there is a certain pleasure in warming up with a freshly-steamed hoppang (호빵). These pre-cooked treats are usually warmed in a steamer or microwave before eating. Traditionally hoppang is filled with red bean paste, but other fillings include meat, cheese, vegetables, sweet potatos, pizza toppings, sweet pumpkin, and more. Also, the shape of hoppang has become more varied.

    Hoppang derives its name from the Korean onomatopoeia “ho ho” for blowing on hot food and also from the sound of laughter that comes from a family happily eating hoppang together. Each bun is around 700 to 1,000 won and this tasty treat can be purchased at convenience stores, small independent grocery stores, street vendors, markets, and more.

  • Baked Sweet Potatoes & Roasted Chestnuts

    Roasted chestnuts (군밤) and baked sweet potatoes (군고구마) are one of the most popular winter snacks as they can easily be prepared at home. Roasted chestnuts take a long time to cook thoroughly, but this ensures a savory flavor. They are usually sold near traditional markets in small paper bags for 2,000 to 3,000 won.

    Along with roasted chestnuts, baked sweet potatoes are typically cooked in large iron barrels. Baked sweet potatoes taste sweeter than steamed sweet potatoes and are best enjoyed hot. You can usually buy 2 to 3 potatoes for 2,000 to 5,000 won at roadside stalls in residential areas, and near subway stations and schools.

  • Tteokbokki

    Tteokbokki (떡볶이) is a widely popular dish in Korea that has a very distinctive spicy, yet sweet, flavor. The main ingredient of tteokbokki is garaetteok (long, white rice cakes), which is mixed with eomuk (fish cake) and various vegetables like onions, cabbage, and carrots, and then marinated with red pepper paste. The mixture is heated and served with a hot cup of broth that the eomuk was cooked in.

    Tteokbokki is easily found all across Korea. Recently, tteokbokki specialty franchise restaurants have opened, and a wider variety of tteokbokki flavors are available including ones using curry and cheese. Prices vary by store, but you can generally expect to pay 2,500 to 3,500 won per serving with complimentary refills of eomuk broth.

  • Kkochi Eomuk

    Yet another favorite street food snack that Koreans like to eat as the temperatures drop is kkochi eomuk (꼬치 어묵). Eomuk is prepared on skewers then boiled in a broth flavored with radishes and kelp. Unlike tteokbokki, eomuk is not spicy and is a great complement to help soothe the spicy taste of tteokbokki. Pick the eomuk skewer that has been in the broth for a long time and dip your skewer in soy sauce (provided by the vendor) for the best taste. Eomuk skewers usually cost anywhere from 500 to 1,000 won and are often sold at the same stands as tteokbokki.

  • Hotteok

    Hotteok (호떡) is a simple and sweet snack. In winter, places such as Insa-dong and Namdaemun Market in Seoul are dotted with hotteok vendors serving up these delicious little pancakes. Hotteok is made with dough from glutinous (sticky) rice flour and filled with a spread made from sugar, peanuts, and cinnamon. The round and flat pancakes are then lightly fried in oil. Some of the recent variations include hotteok stuffed with vegetables or seeds. Be careful when you take that first bite, though the brown-sugar filling is delicious, it is often very hot. Like many of the other street foods in Korea, hotteok is a steal at only 700 to 1,000 won apiece.

    ☞ Related Column
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Date 11/29/2013

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