Winter Street Snacks
As the air turns colder, street vendors seem to pop up all along the sidewalks, selling popular winter snacks like baked sweet potatoes, roasted chestnuts, hoppang (steamed buns) and bungeo-ppang (fish-shaped bread filled with red bean paste). Despite Korea’s rapid development, these traditional snacks remain almost unchanged, and bring back childhood memories for Koreans who stop for a bite. Warm up while taking a bite of traditional Korean culture!
Bungeo-ppang / Ingeo-ppang (fish-shaped bread filled with red bean paste)
Bungeo-ppang or ingeo-ppang, also known as hwanggeum Ingeo-ppang (goldfish-shaped bread), is made from wheat and glutinous rice flour and is filled with red bean paste. Bungeo-ppang carts can be seen all over the streets of Seoul in winter and fill the crisp cold air with a heavenly sweet aroma. Best part is, five bungeo-ppang usually sell for only 2,000 won.
It is said that they way someone eats his or her bungeo-ppang 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; those who go for the tail are likely to be sensitive, romantic, and fashionable. Next time you eat this tasty treat, give yourself and your friends the bungeo-ppang personality test!
Bungeo-ppang Personality Test
* 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.
* Splits in half and eats tail first: Polite, good at saving money, and a rationalist.
* Splits in half and eats head first: Strong willed and follows through with plans. Stingy and does not like to lend money.
Hoppang (steamed, filled bun)
Along with the cold winds and early sunsets, hoppang is a sign that winter has arrived in Korea. Although there is no historical reason as to why hoppang is a favorite winter snack, it rarely appears among street fare during other seasons. In the winter though, you’ll see people making hoppang along the streets or at the outdoor market – kneading the bread or putting the dough in the steamer. Since the price is only 700 to 1000won, it’s a filling snack that anyone can afford. Though hoppang is typically filled with red bean paste, you can also find ones filled with vegetables, pizza seasonings, curry, and more. Just walk along the street or pop in the nearest convenience store to try this tasty treat.
Baked Sweet Potatoes & Roasted Chestnuts
Chestnuts are harvested in autumn and sweet potatoes become ripe in November, explaining why these two savory snacks make their debut come winter.
Roasted chestnuts take a long time to cook thoroughly. This ensures not only a better flavor, but also allows for easier peeling. They are usually sold in small paper bags for 2,000 to 3,000 won.
Baked sweet potatoes are usually cooked in a large iron barrels. Baked sweet potatoes taste sweeter than steamed sweeter potatoes and are best enjoyed hot. Prices vary based on size but you can generally expect to pay 2,000 won for 3 potatoes.
You can find both of these snacks at roadside stalls near residential areas, subway stations and schools.
Topokki (spicy Korean rice cakes)
Topokki is one of the most famous dishes in Korea. It has a very distinctive spicy, yet sweet flavor. Though garaetteok (long, white rice cakes) is traditionally served on New Year’s Day, it can be enjoyed year round in tteokbokki. In this famous dish, tteok (rice cake) is mixed with eomuk (fish cake), boiled fish paste and various fried items, and then is marinated with red pepper paste. The entire concoction is mixed together as it’s heated and served with a hot cup of broth (the water the eomuk was boiled in). Though it’s definitely a snack (or a light meal!) that you’ll find throughout the four seasons, the popularity of topokki skyrockets in the winter since it warms the body, fills the stomach, and seems to fight off the winter blues. Since it’s a dish that is enjoyed by people of all ages, you’ll find tteokbokki vendors on many busy street corners in Seoul, and especially in the Myeongdong and Jongno areas. The dish usually ranges from 2,500 to 3,000 won per serving with complimentary refills of eomuk broth.
Kkochi Eomuk (skewered fish cake)
Yet another popular street food Koreans begin to crave as the temperatures drop is delicious eomuk skewers. Eomuk is prepared on skewers then boiled with radishes and kelp to create the special broth sipped while eating the skewer. Unlike tteokbokki, eomuk is not spicy at all. For maximum flavor, try to pick a skewer that has been in the broth for awhile (as opposed to a skewer that has just been prepared). Be sure to dip your skewer in soy sauce (provided by the vendor). Eomuk skewers usually cost anywhere from 500 to 1000 won and are often sold at the same stands as Tteokbokki.
Hotteok (Korean-style sugar pancake)
Hotteok is a simple and sweet snack. During the winter, places such as Insa-dong 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 pancake is then lightly fried in oil. Be careful when you take that first bite! The hot brown-sugar filling is often very hot and can scorch your lips if you’re not careful. Like many of the other street foods in Korea, Hotteok is a steal at only 700 to 1,000 won.
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