Photo: Hyung min Choi/Shutterstock

11 Seoul Street Foods and Where to Find Them

by Daniel Gray Aug 19, 2015

1. Japchae hotteok — Namdaemun

Over by Namdaemun Gate 2 is the city’s famous hotteok food cart; it’s so popular the owner’s said to be a millionaire.

Hotteok is normally leavened flour filled with sugar, cinnamon, and nuts then fried till it becomes a delicious caramel donut, and the owner here does the dessert version well, but her most popular recipe sees sesame-soy sweet glass noodles, carrots, and spinach stuffed inside the donut then basted with a fruit-seasoned soy sauce. I know, sounds odd, but just try it.

2. Ramen hotdog and hotteok on a stick — Namdaemun

Ramen hotdog on a stick.

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There are many variations of this chopstick-skewered, fried hotdog. It can be plain i.e. just battered and deep fried. It can be studded with french fries; it can even be covered with spikes of ramen.

3. Red bean cakes — Namdaemun

Goldfish bread stuffed with red bean and corn

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You can get these pretty much anywhere in Seoul, but Namdaemun’s are spot on. Basically, these are custardy waffles filled with sweetened red bean. And they’re pretty darn good, especially as a warming wintertime treat.

4. Poo bread — Insadong

Poo bread #seouleats

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No, there’s no poo inside but there is red bean that could be…just don’t imagine it too much. It’s true, Koreans love cute poo. There are even children’s books about the transformation of a dog turd into a beautiful flower. No joke. It’s a classic. The poo bread started from Samziegil building and then spread like… ^&%^ all around Korea. It became so popular that there’s even a Dung Cafe. They have delicious poo-shaped desserts and drinks there.

5. Mandu — Bukchon

Koreans are famous for their dumplings, and the place to get the best street food version is down the alley right next to the Ssamziegil building. Here, they stuff a large dumpling skin with lots of meat, tofu, and veggies then fry it up. They’re big enough that one will be an adequate snack, but you’ll surely want a few more.

6. Tteokbokki and tweggum — Jongno 3-ga exit 5’s Nakwon

I love the hard working ajummas that serve delicious street food in Seoul. It’s hard work but they do it day in and day out.

A photo posted by Seoul Eats By Yoonie and Danny (@seouleats) on

Ok, this woman is like my aunty so you have to be nice to her. My aunty works tirelessly to bring high quality Korean street food to the hungry masses. Her tteokbokki (spicy rice cake noodles) are chewy and with a sauce that has just the right amount of heat. Her soondae (blood sausage) are not too gamey. But the best things on her cart are the fried goods — you have to try her fried squid and sweet potatoes. The coating is crisp and just done just right. I like getting a bag of it to eat on the go.

7. Mayak kimbap — Gwangjang Market

I have a general rule about food carts: Don’t eat the rice rolls — I’ve just seen too many people get sick from them (especially in summer). This rule does not apply to the mayak kimbap in Gwangjang Market, because they’re always sold too quickly to go bad.

Mayak kimbap translates to narcotic kimbap; people really do get addicted to these, and you’ll see customers taking dozens of orders home with them to give to friends or family. When you dip the little seaweed-wrapped morsels in the mustard/soy sauce, you’ll get it.

8. Bindaetteok — Gwangjang Market

Bindaetteok #koreanfood

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The one thing you have to eat at Gwangjang Market is the bindaetteok (crispy mung bean pancakes). Almost every stall makes them, and they must be eaten hot and fresh. My favorites are Pakgane and Sunheene.

9. Hong Cup’s Fried Chicken — Hongdae

You’ve all heard of Korean fried chicken. It’s crispy, juicy, and delicious. The street food version comes in a little cup, and my favorite place to get it is in the arts district of Hongdae. Hong Cup has been around for over 6 years, and in the transient area of Hongdae — that is a lifetime. The chicken is spicy and tangy and the little hit of honey mustard just brings it to life. Get the medium-sized cup. Otherwise you’ll be returning here in five minutes.

10. Kimchi mandu — Mapo Mandu

Kimchi dumplings at Mapo Mandu #koreanfood

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You must have kimchi mandu when you’re in Korea. Mapo Mandu is a franchise, but you can get a steam tray and have a quick bite. The kimchi is sharp and complex and it goes perfectly with the pork and veggie filling.

11. Kimbap and cheese Ramen — any Kimbap Chunguk, Kimbap Nara

Korean comfort food: cheese ramyeon, kimbap, kimchi and turnip. I need it. Lots of stuff going on right now.

A photo posted by Seoul Eats By Yoonie and Danny (@seouleats) on

Kimbap and cheese ramen is the Korean equivalent of peanut butter and jelly, macaroni and cheese, vegemite and margarine, or whatever weird nostalgic food your country holds dear (by the way, most Koreans think PBNJ is bizarre).

At all the kimbap shops, the de facto ramen is the spicy shin ramyeon. They add a slice of processed cheese that melts into the noodles and makes it creamy. The whole ensemble is matched with the pleasant ham and veggie stuffed rice roll.

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