Header image courtesy of Cy Yambao
The flavours of Seoul (서울) are best discovered by foot—on a walk to the nearest subway station, in-between the long hours of shopping, or while exploring alleyways that lead to the unknown. This is especially true at night, when the streets come to life with rows of outdoor food stalls, locally known as pojangmacha (포장마차). While popular districts and tourist hubs like Myeongdong (명동), Hongdae (홍대), and Insadong (인사동) are the most frequented, the entire South Korean capital is actually a temptation to your taste buds. The list below may only show a fraction of the city’s thriving street food scene, but we promise every bite will make braving the lines worth it! Here are the best street snacks to try when in Seoul, South Korea.
Originally a staple dish in royal court cuisine—one that is served only for the King—tteokbokki (떡볶이; a spicy rice cake) has now become a crowd favourite that you can find almost anywhere across the country. The modern-day recipe consists of cylindrical rice cakes boiled to chewy perfection, bathed in gochujang, or red chilli paste, and commonly served piping hot in a cup.
Considered a comfort food especially during the winter months, odeng (오뎅; fish cake) is heavily influenced by the Japanese fish cake stew, where its name has been derived. The traditional dish, also called eomuk (어묵) in native Korean, refers to thinly-sliced, processed fish cakes served on long skewers. The best part? It comes with a hot seafood broth that you can refill to your heart’s content for free.
Beungoppang (붕어빵; a fish-shaped bread), named after a crucian carp but tastes nothing like it, is a fish-shaped pastry reminiscent of good old waffles. The batter is poured onto a black cast-iron mould to achieve just the right golden-brown crispiness on the outside. While typically stuffed with red bean paste in its traditional forms, today’s modern beungoppang features a variety of other fillings such as cream, custard, cheese, sweet potato, banana, and Nutella.
This Korean-style sushi roll is sold in bite-sized portions on the streets, normally wrapped in plastic to keep it fresh and moist. Enveloped in a sheet of crispy seaweed, gimbap (김밥) combines steamed white rice with diverse ingredients, including mixed vegetables, bits of meat or seafood, egg slices, and pickled radish. Don’t be fooled by its rather small size—it can very well make for a full meal!
Invented in South Korea, the hweori gamja (회오리 감자; “tornado potato”) should be on every fried foodie’s bucket list. A creative twist to your usual French fries and potato chips, this trendy snack makes use of a single ingredient spiralled along the stretch of a skewer. It is often sprinkled with your preference of flavoured powder and, at times, even wrapped around a deep-fried sausage.
If you think corn dogs can’t get any better, you probably haven’t tasted the tokkebi. It’s your favourite childhood snack coated in a thick layer of cornmeal batter, but this time infused with diced potatoes for a crunchier crust. Korean-style corndogs actually come in an assortment—covered in bread crumbs, stuffed with mozzarella cheese, or drizzled with sugar!
No need to twist, lick, and dunk—Oreo now takes the form of churros, a fried dough pastry originating from Spain. After frying, the churro is rolled in sugar and served with a crème dip on the side. Some stalls also have Oreo cheese balls available, not to mention soft-serve ice cream cups and corn dog-style churros with half-cream, half-sausage filling.
Literally an egg bread, the gyeranppang (계란빵) is a golden muffin topped with a whole, often runny, egg. It is cooked in a specialised slotted machine, where it takes its oblong shape, and crisped until slightly chewy. A recommended breakfast snack and a classic winter favourite, it sometimes comes served with ham, cheese, or parsley.
Best described as a filled pancake, hotteok (호떡) is a flour dough bread stuffed with a mixture of cinnamon powder, brown sugar, and chopped nuts. It is pressed flat on a griddle until golden brown, with its sweet filling slowly caramelising beneath the crispy crust. Warning: The filling can be extremely hot fresh off the pan, so be careful not to burn your mouth!
South Koreans are known for their love of chimaek, the popular fried chicken-and-beer combo, but who says you cannot enjoy grilled chicken just as much? For the dakkochi (닭꼬치; a spicy chicken skewer), sliced chunks of chicken are stitched with scallions on a skewer, cooked over charcoal, and brushed with a sweet and spicy sauce. If you’re not a fan of chilli, the heat level can be adjusted.
If you can’t handle spicy tteokbokki, this baked cheesy goodness is probably for you! One of the more recent additions to Seoul’s evolving street food scene, the cheese tteok-kkochi (떡꼬치) is comprised of rice cakes and mozzarella cubes on a skewer. The chewy combination is complemented by a drizzle of sweetened condensed milk.
Not the most visually appealing snack around, this poop-shaped bread originating from Insadong is a definite win for emoji lovers! Similar to the more traditional fish-shaped beungoppang, ddong bbang (똥빵) is a waffle-like pastry that surprisingly tastes good with its sweet filling of red bean or chocolate. You can also opt to pair it with hot chocolate or milk tea.