Korean Street Food in Seoul
Most people know about kimchi and Korean barbeque, but the food offerings in South Korea are incredibly diverse, and go far beyond these standard dishes.
In Seoul there’s a tantalizing restaurant every few meters throughout the entire city and street food carts and tents fill all the open spaces.
Whether you’re in the mood for something sweet or savory, you’ll have endless options – from grilled scallops with butter and cheese, barbecued meats, pancakes, noodle snacks, pork belly rolls, rose-shaped ice cream and more.
Two of my favorite locations for street food are Myeongdong Shopping Street and the Gwangjang Market.
Here’s a list of the street foods I came across during my 2 weeks in Seoul. I didn’t manage to try all of them (because I’m not a fan of sea food), but the ones I did sample were super delicious!
Long Twist Ice Cream
You can’t stroll around Myeongdong without noticing people walking around with these tall 32 cm tall ice cream cones. They come in a variety of flavors: chocolate-vanilla, green tea-vanilla, yogurt strawberry and more.
Kimchi is THE staple food in South Korea. Salted and fermented vegetables, mostly cabbage and radishes, and seasoned with chili powder, but really there are endless variations. It’s usually very spicy and added to all kind of dishes or served by itself.
Gyeran-Bbang (Egg Bread)
It’s a perfect snack to eat on the go: Steamed little loaves of bread with a whole egg baked inside. The old-fashioned street food is sweet, salty and fluffy.
Kimbap (Rice Rolls)
The Korean version of sushi is made with steamed rice, pickled veggies sometimes meat or seafood and rolled up in seaweed. Then it’ll be sliced into bite sized pieces. The street version is normally pre-made and wrapped in plastic to remain moist and soft.
Bibimbap literally means “mixed rice” and refers to a bowl of warm white rice topped with gochujang (Korean chili paste) and a variety of sauteed vegetables like cucumber, soy bean sprouts, radish, spinach, and mushroom. An egg (raw or fried) and sliced meat, typically beef, are often added.
Yangnyeom Tongdak (Fried Chicken)
Double-deep fried chicken pieces tossed in sticky sauces, from sweet and spicy ones, to soy and garlic. Usually served with some rice cakes in it. Highly addictive!
The stuffed dumpling, similar to the Chinese Jiaozi and Japanese Gyoza are filled with minced pork or beef, Chinese leeks, fresh vegetables and homemade sesame oil. Mandu can be steamed, boiled, pan-fried, or deep-fried.
Tteokbokki (Rice Cake)
The sticky dense rice rolls are similar to chewy gnocchi and a very popular snack. Tossed in a thick red chili sauce and served hot and fresh, right out of the simmering pan.
The street version of Korean Barbecue: Grilled meat skewers (pork belly, chicken or beef) served with a variety of sauces that range from mild to three-alarm-fire spicy.
Not for the faint-hearted is soondae, a sausage made of boiled intestines (typically from a pig or cow) stuffed with noodles, various vegetables, and pig’s blood.
Strawberry Red Bean Mochi
A traditional Japanese rice cake that is very popular in the streets of Myeongdong. The mochi is filled with red bean and strawberry, fluffy and lightly sweet, brushed with powdered sugar.
Made from beef ribs, the meat is minced and pounded on the bone, marinated in a sweet savory sauce, then rolled into balls then deep-fried. Be careful, it can be very spicy!
Bungeoppang (Goldfish-shaped Waffle)
Filled with sweet red bean paste and pressed together in a hot mold, Bungeoppang is a real favorite of Korean youth. Crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside. Apart from ordinary red bean paste, other options like cream and custard are available.
Seoul’s a heaven for seafood lovers: Tentacles of fried and dried octopus and squid, melted cheese and scallop served in the shell, fishcake on skewers, dried cuttlefish, deep fried crispy baby crabs,
seafood pancake and more.
Skewered sticks of rice cakes and alternating pieces of mozzarella cheese grilled, drizzled with a bit of condensed milk.
A pile of fried cabbage, topped with bacon and cheese, wrapped in a crepe-like pancake. Everything topped off with a fried egg, a dash of dried fish shavings (katsuobushi) and drizzled in a sweet & savory sauce.
Korean Style Yaki Noodles
Pan-fried Korean noodles with bite-sized pork, shredded cabbage, onions and carrots, with some gochujang sauce for the spiciness.
Bindaetteok (Mung Bean Pancake)
Mung beans, bean sprouts and spring onions, shallow fried into a pancake until it’s golden crispy on the outside, yet fluffy and soft on the inside.
It’s generally served with a sour vinegar sauce and raw onions.
Twigim Yache (Fried Vegetables)
Very similar to Japanese tempure, the concept is pretty much the same; batter-dipped and deep fried. Twigim usually use different vegetables such as green peppers, sweet potato, carrot or kimbap, all mixed together.
Hweori Gamja (Tornado Potato)
This impressive potato swirl is a potato cut into a spiral, spread out on a long stick, deep fried until crunchy. Some stalls offer seasoned powders to sprinkle over such as onion, cheese or BBQ.
Tokkebi (Hot Dog)
In Korean folklore, tokkebi is a ruthless creature that casts evil spells on mean people. In Korean street food culture, however, tokkebi is a hot dog, skewered and wrapped in French Fries, deep fried in sesame oil.
Seoul’s Street Food 101Street food carts are typically cash only. Some have a jar for money, but with most you pay the cook directly.
Unlike cities in Southeast Asia, Seoul is not the cheapest city to have street food. Most food items should average about KRW 2,000 – KRW 5,000.
It’s not customary to leave a tip.
Bring a waste paper bag along for disposal as trash bins are generally not easy to find in Seoul.
Visit Gwangjang Market if you want to get lost in Korean street-food paradise.
Gwangjang is Korea’s largest hanbok (traditional clothing) and textile market, but it also happens to be the oldest street-food market in the country, filled with food stalls boasting a wide array of street-food offerings.
A place in Seoul where you’ll find both tourists and Koreans, all enjoying freshly-cooked food.
Most food stalls are open from 8:30am to 6pm daily, but some restaurants open longer and some places are closed on Sunday.
Myeong-dong is one of the key shopping and food districts in Seoul, lined with almost every major Korean beauty shops, department stores and of course, food.
Every day from around 5pm the place comes to life with more than 80 street food vendors lined along the streets. A foodie heaven!
I was lucky to stay at the Guesthouse The Hill which was in easy walking distance to the main food street. I ate there almost every night!