Korea is well-known for too many things to count – music, television, and a rich, interesting history are only a few of the things that make Korean culture so unlike any other.
Another aspect of Korean culture that is unique and hard to beat is the incredible street food sprinkled throughout the country’s cities.
Whether you’re looking for a quick, salty snack or an adventure for your taste buds, read on to find out about some of the best Korean street food!
Korean Street Food #1: Sundae (순대)
Sundae, Korea’s unique take on the blood sausage phenomenon, is a dish that smells and tastes better than it looks. Sundae uses a variety of body parts from both pigs and cows to create an unbeatable, complex dish that’s easy to scarf down.
Have you ever tasted lung or liver? If not, sundae can be your introduction – most sundae is served with lung or liver as a garnish. Don’t knock it before you try it!
Korean Street Food #2: Fried snacks (튀김)
Yep, it’s exactly what it sounds like! Everybody loves a good fried snack. Korean street food vendors are well aware of this phenomenon, and as a result they offer a variety of flash fried vegetables and dumplings to satisfy your craving for flaky, fried goodness. Doctors say not to overdo it on the oil, but this is a great once in a while treat that’s easy to eat on the go.
Korean Street Food #3: Tteokbokki (떡볶이)
Tteokbokki is not for the faint of heart – this dish is comprised of unassuming, mild rice cakes saturated in an intense, spicy sauce. Korean spicy is definitely more intense than your everyday spicy, so tread lightly! This dish is an age-old crowd-pleaser and is loved by people of all ages. Give it a try the next time you’re wandering through Seoul!
Korean Street Food #4: Hotteok (호떡)
If you’re familiar at all with the Korean street food scene, chances are you’ve heard of hotteok. Hotteok is a dessert dish that involves griddle cakes fried on a hot plate stuffed with a variety of sweet additions including different types of sugar, fruits, and syrups. Grab some hotteok the next time you’re craving something sweet – these are especially sweet when the weather gets cooler!
Korean Street Food #5: Egg bread (계란 빵)
This dish, like fried snacks, is also pretty self-explanatory. A whole egg is stuffed and cooked inside bread, served warm and crispy. If you need some quick protein and carbs, egg bread is an efficient way to do it! Though traditionally eaten as a dessert snack, egg bread also makes a smart breakfast (it knocks out two food groups at once!).
Korean Street Food #6: Walnut cakes (호두 과자)
Take a walk on the sweeter sign and give walnut cakes a try the next time you’re out and about. Packed with protein (both beans and walnuts), walnut cakes are a Korean favorite that you can feel good about munching on.
Korean Street Food #7: Baby kimbap (꼬마 김밥)
Baby gimbap is one of the easier Korean street foods to eat on the go – it’s wrapped completely in seaweed, so it’s easy to pick up and snack on with minimal mess. There’s rice and your choice of topping in the seaweed – some of the more popular ingredient choices include kimchi and octopus. This snack is filling and easy to track down – give it a try the next time you want to snack without the mess!
Korean Street Food #8: Rice cake skewers (떡꼬치)
There’s no shortage of rice cakes on the Korean street food scene – this popular snack, for instance, is simply grilled rice cakes served on a skewer. Sometimes simple is best, and this insanely popular snack goes to show it! Try it out the next time you’re looking for a snack and find a new appreciation for rice cakes.
Korean Street Food #9: Sweet potato sticks (고구마 스틱)
Did you think we could get through a list about fast and easy street food delights without including some variation of fried potato?
Sweet potato sticks are a (slightly) healthier alternative to their cousin, the French fry. Though they’re prepared the same way – deep fried in hot oil that your doctor probably wouldn’t be too thrilled about – the sweet potato is densely packed with nutrients, and is therefore a better choice for snacking than the average potato. Get ‘em while they’re hot!
Korean Street Food #10: Kimchi fried rice (김치볶음밥)
You can’t get more Korean than a street food dish that combines kimchi and fried rice for your snacking pleasure. The dish also includes seaweed and can be topped with a fried egg – eat it warm and you’ll be quick to realize why this street food meal is loved by so many!
Korean Street Food #11: Bundaeggi (번데기)
Bundaeggi is boiled silkworm larva.
Wait, come back! Let me explain.
Does the fact that the larva are boiled with sugar and soy make it sound more appealing? Despite sounding (and looking) not as enticing as the rest of the dishes on this list, this snack is surprisingly popular and can be found throughout most Korean cities. Grab a cup the next time you come across a vendor serving bundaeggi – think of the story you’ll be able to tell your friends!
Korean Street Food #12: Hotba (핫바)
This popular dish is fried fish paste, served on a chopstick for easy access. Best served steaming hot, hotba is a great salty snack that has a kick to it. Give it a try with ketchup and mustard for the full effect.
Korean Street Food #13: Cup chicken (컵 치킨)
The Korean take on the fried chicken fixation in Western cultures, cup chicken is unlike any dish you’ll find at a Kentucky Fried Chicken. The spicy sauce that the dish is prepared in makes the dish uniquely Korean, while still delivering the crispy, satisfying experience that fried chicken is known (and loved) for. Most cup chicken is mixed with fried tater tots, as well – talk about a fried food experience!
Korean Street Food #14: Ice cream filled waffles (아이스크림 와플)
This one almost doesn’t need an explanation – who doesn’t love ice cream or waffles? This Korean street food favorite pairs two of the best foods on earth and marries them into one delicious, easy to eat snack that you can eat on the go.
I personally love that the waffle adds a bit of crunch to the dessert that ice cream doesn’t have on its own – it makes this treat way more satisfying than enjoying waffles or ice cream solo. Give this snack a try the next time you’re looking for something light a sweet after a filling Korean meal!
Korean Street Food #15: Cotton Candy (솜사탕)
Cotton candy isn’t a dessert limited to fairs and carnivals in Korea – it’s actually one of the most popular desserts sold at street food carts in big cities like Seoul! Light and fluffy, this is the perfect snack if you’d like something light and sweet without committing to a full blown dessert (despite the intimidating size of the cotton candy you’ll find in Seoul).
Korean cotton candy is often shaped in super fun shapes, too – you’ll find cotton candy shaped like flowers and animals just as often as you’ll find traditional, shapeless cotton candy. The best part is that because cotton candy is so commonplace in Korea, you won’t have to deal with waiting in a line with twenty children in front of you before you get your snack. Sounds like a win/win situation to me! Pick up some cotton candy the next time you want a taste of childhood and a delicious treat at the same time – you’ll be glad you did.
Korean Street Food #16: Sugar Lollipop (뽑기)
If candy is more your style than baked goods or ice cream, Korean sugar lollipops are street food that are right up your alley. Crisp and very sweet, sugar lollipops are made from sugar that has been caramelized with a tiny bit of baking soda added to it. Sounds easy enough to make at home, right?
What you won’t find at home, however, is the fun contest sugar lollipop vendors usually participate in – if you can bite all around the stars, hearts, and other shapes usually placed in the center of the lollipop without cracking the candy itself, you get another one for free! If you love candy, give the challenge a try – best case scenario, you get two sugar lollipops, and worst case scenario, you still have one!
Korean Street Food #17: Goldfish Bread (붕어빵)
Think of goldfish bread, or bungeoppang in Korean, as delicious waffle-like bread filled with red bean deliciousness. Prepared with a mold similar to a waffle iron, this snack is best when served warm – the warmth combined with the crunch of the freshly-roasted bread and the sweetness of the red beans filling makes for a delicious and easy-to-eat dessert treat.
There are also a ton of different variations of bungeoppang that make this snack even more fun and exciting – for example, you’ll see versions of this snack filled with ice cream and chocolate syrup, taking the sweetness factor to the next level. Whether you’re craving something mildly sweet or something out-of-this-world sweet, pick up the bungeoppang that sounds best for you the next time you’d like a dessert snack a little more substantial than candy.
Korean Street Food #18: Potato Hot Dogs (감자핫도그)
Calling all cars – this is NOT a drill! One of the street foods that I am most excited about on this list is the potato hot dog, which is a crowd favorite in Korean cities. This snack is literally a hot dog cooked to perfection and then covered in crispy, golden potatoes. What’s not to love? Pick up a potato covered hot dog the next time you want to kill two birds with one stone (and have a great time doing it).
Korean Street Food #19: Deep-fried squid (오징어 튀김)
If you’re a squid lover, look no further – this deep fried squid snack is the snack for you! Why would you order small pieces of deep fried squid-like calamari when you can go big and order the entire squid? Definitely not for the mildly hungry, this snack is perfect if you’re looking for a filling, easy-to-eat replacement for a meal and think you can handle eating an entire deep-fried squid. Give it a try, and be sure to tell us about your experience in the comments below!
Korean Street Food #20: 30cm Korean ice cream cone (30cm 아이스크림)
Koreans don’t mess around when it comes to street food in general, but they REALLY don’t mess around when it comes to ice cream. If you’re in search of an ice cream cone this summer, there is no better place to satisfy your craving than a Korean street food cart.
30cm Korean ice cream cones are three to four times the size of your typical Mr. Softee cone, so this snack is definitely not for the faint of heart or anyone without some serious room in their stomach. If you love ice cream so much that you put other ice cream fans to shame, definitely pick up one of these bad boys so you can tell your friends back home that you successfully finished a monster ice cream cone!
All snacks are not created equally – this list encompasses a wide variety of treats, and you’re bound to have a favorite. Please tell us about your favorite Korean street food in the comments below! Also, let us know if we’re missing anything – we’re ALWAYS ready to try new and exciting snacks.