Top 25 Most Popular Korean Street Foods
Of all the vendors selling on the streets in Korea, the most well-known are those that sell delicious street food! You can easily spot them on streets from big cities to small countryside towns.
If you have visited Korea you were probably amazed at the variety, the price, and, above all, the amazing tastes. Korea is a street food heaven and street food is regarded as a part of popular culture in Korea.
It is not clear when exactly street food started to appear in Korea, but the concept of selling food on the street is quite old. Korean street vendors, like most street vendors over the world, began selling a living around traditional markets.
After the Korean War (1950-1953), street food vendors provided affordable meals for people unable to put food on the table. Then, street food expanded into the Cheonggyecheon stream and Jongno districts, where today locals and tourists can find famous street food alleys. Overall it can be said that street food is regarded as a significant part of the Korean food culture.
So, let’s discover the best and must-eat Korean street food that will delight your taste buds!
Like a Meal (Meal-sized Street Food)
Did you think street food is only about tasty snacks between meals? No way! Please do not underestimate the versatility of street food. Some street food is just perfect for breakfast, lunch, and dinner as it is quite sufficient for one meal.
Here are a few street food dishes that are commonly served as meals.
1. 떡볶이 (Tteokbokki: Spicy Stir-fried Rice Cakes)
Many people are familiar with the dish tteokbokki, especially those interested in Korean culture or who watch Korean movies or dramas. These spicy rice cakes mixed with various ingredients are always ranked in the top 5 of Koreans’ most loved street food.
Have you already tried the classic tteokbokki? Well, now you can now try fusion tteokbokki, a delicious twist on the classic such as Carbonara tteokbokki, Curry tteokbokki, and Bacon tteokbokki on the street. Does it sound a bit off beat? Well, these creative dishes will sparkle your taste buds and you will be pleasantly surprised at how well the flavors mesh together!
2. 순대 (Soondae: Korean Sausage)
Soondae is known as tteokbboki’s best friend. Yes, it goes so well with tteokbokki. You can easily find street vendors even selling the combo tteoksoon (tteok from tteokbokki, soon from soondae).
Soondae dipping sauces are different depending on the region in Korea. When you order soondae at the street vendor in Seoul or Gyenggi province, salt is served for dipping. However, if you visit Busan, which is the second largest city in Korea, then they will offer you soondae with makjang (a sauce made from doenjang and gochujang).
3. 컵밥 (Cupbab: Rice in a Cup)
This is a bowl of rice served with toppings. The only difference is that the bowl is replaced with a cup. In other words, cupbab is rice topped with various toppings in a paper cup. So it’s literally called cupbab since it’s cup plus bap (rice Korean).
Students and those preparing for state exams often have for cupbab for a meal as it’s cheap and tasty. Kimchi fried rice is usually the base and it is topped with extra ingredients such as ham, sausage, eggs, or tuna.
4. 만두 (Mandu: Korean Dumplings)
Mandu are Korean dumplings that are commonly filled with minced meat (usually pork), tofu, green onions, garlic, glass noodles. It’s another famous street food that is eaten as a meal.
In Korea there are many different varieties of Mandu, but usually two types can be found on the street: meat dumpling and kimchi dumpling. You can go for one type or ask the vendor to put half of each in a takeaway box.
5. 닭강정 (Dakgangjeong: Sweet Crispy Korean Fried Chicken)
Dak means chicken in Korean, so yes, it’s a stir-fried chicken marinated in sauce. There are various types depending on the sauce, but the most common dakgangjeong is the one with sweet chili sauce.
Some dakgangjeong street vendors are so popular that you have to wait hours to taste it and some people even come from other regions just to taste the dakganjeong sold at an specific street stall.
6. 어묵 (Eomuk: Korean Fish Cake)
Eomuk is a popular dish made with dough and powdered fish. Fish cakes are usually dipped in salty soy sauce seasoned with green onions and sesame oil. Depending on the size, skewers of fish cake cost 50 cents to 1 dollar, which is often the cheapest food on the street.
There are two types of fish cakes, folded and zigzagged, and a long fish cake. The taste and amount are similar, but the long fish cake has the advantage of maintaining a hot and bouncy texture for a longer time, and the folded and zigzagged fish cake is well simmered in broth and has a soy sauce taste.
7. 밥버거 (Bap Burger: Korean Rice Burger)
Again, bap means cooked rice, and burger is burger, as you know. This dish is a burger with buns of compressed rice, which hold the meat and veggies together. Bap burger is a popular Korean-style street food known for being very tasty with an affordable price. It is especially popular with students looking for a low-priced meal.
Koreans like to fill it with kimchi, tuna, spicy pork or chicken with various vegetables between the rice buns, which are then toasted and scorched to give them a smokey flavor and crunchy texture.
8. 튀김 (Twigim: Korean Deep Fries)
Twigim in Korean refers to deep-fried dishes. The outer part of the batter is called frying clothes (튀김 옷), and starch powder, bread crumbs, and flour are mainly used.
In general, fried food is sold by tteokbokki and soondae street vendors. The type of fried food depends on the main ingredient. Fried squid (오징어 튀김), fried vegetables (야채 튀김), fried sweet potatoes (고구마 튀김), and fried seaweed noodle rolls (김말이) are some examples.
9. 빈대떡 (Bindaetteok: Mung Bean Pancakes)
This is a dish of ground mung beans mixed with vegetables or meat and fried in oil. It is greasy and has a savory taste, so it is also regarded as one of the best foods to eat when drinking alcohol.
In the past, it was expensive for commoners to eat meat. They therefore used meat scraps and fat to flavor their food. Since the fat from the meat makes the pancake tastier, along with the nutty taste of the mung beans, the pancakes became a very popular Korean dish. Also, it’s very easy to make outdoors, so bindaetteok can be seen in many open air markets.
10. 길거리토스트 (Gilgeori Toast: Korean Street Toast)
Gilgeori toast, which means street toast in Korean, is a savory and sweetened egg sandwich sold by street food vendors. For many Koreans, gilgeori toast is a nostalgic street food, reminiscent of childhood. It is fast, easy, and affordable and eaten for breakfast or lunch.
Korean street toast is made by sprinkling ketchup and sugar on egg pancakes mixed with carrots. And despite some foreign visitors declaring “It’s a sandwich, not a toast!”, it is most definitely a toast!
Korean Street Food Snacks
So, you are not full up with the main meal you tasted on the street. Don’t worry, you will be hungry again and then you’ll be looking out for something to munch on once you’ve spent time visiting all the attractions.
11. 꽈배기(Kkwabaegi: Twisted Korean Doughnuts)
Kkwabaegi is a sweet snack that is fluffy, spongy, and twisted. It is made with glutinous rice flour and melted butter. The dough is deep-fried in oil and tossed in sugar and cinnamon powder.
Like most fried breads, it tastes a lot better when it’s just come out of the oil. If you are too full to eat it right away, then take it home for later. But please remember to heat it up in a microwave or oven!
12. 닭꼬치 (Ddakkochi: Korean Chicken Skewers)
Ddakkochi is a popular grilled chicken snack on a stick. It is usually coated with an addictive sweet and spicy sauce. However, it sometimes comes simply seasoned with salt and no sauce. There are vendors that also put mustard sauce or mayonnaise over ddakkochi.
Some street vendor sell very spicy chicken skewers called bomb-flavored chicken skewers, which will test your tolerance of spicy food. The level of spice could have your eyes watering within seconds! If you fancy the challenge, go for bomb-flavored!
13. 감자 핫도그 (Gamja-Hotdog: Korean-style French Fries Corn Dog)
This is a fun Korean street food: a hot dog on a stick covered with French fries! Gamja means potatoes in Korean so its name, gamja-hotdog, pretty much covers it.
Many foreigners who have visited Korea recommend gamja-hotdog as the must-try Korean street food. They can be filled with either sausage or cheese and rolled in sugar or covered with a sauce such as ketchup and mayonnaise. It depends on your taste.
14. 호떡 (Hotteok: Korean Sweet Pancakes)
Hotteok is a dessert snack that is filled with a sweet syrup made from cinnamon, brown sugar, and peanuts. Nowadays, you can enjoy various types of hotteok as the original filling can be replaced with ice cream or cheese.
For those who like to go for a more savory snack, you could find Japchae hottoek, which is filled with grass noodles mixed with soy sauce seasoning, veggies, and minced meat.
For more Korean sweet treats, check out our article on the most popular Korean desserts and sweets.
15. 계란빵 (Gyeran-Ppang: Egg Bread)
Gyeran mean eggs in Korean and ppang means bread. Egg bread sounds as simple as the recipe, but the taste is anything but, as yet you can taste both sweet and savory at once.
The dough is made with mixing flour, baking powder, milk, eggs, butter, sugar, and salt. Then, it is put in the Gyeran-ppang machine and a whole egg is cracked onto the bread batter. It is cooked until golden brown. This snack is particularly popular during winter as it is warm and steamy.
16. 찐빵 (Jjinppang: Korean Steamed Buns)
Jjinbbang was first introduced to the Korean peninsula around 250 years ago. Since then, it has been growing in popularity and become one of Koreans’ favorite snacks. It is typically filled with sweetened red bean paste, but also with vegetables and different types of meat.
Steaming jjinppang is an ideal snack in the cold winter months as you grab it with your bare hands, warming up your frosty fingers. Of course, the warm and sweetened filling will help your body warm and relax too.
17. 국화빵 (Gukhwa-Ppang: Chrysanthemum Bread)
Bread with chrysanthemum? It sounds a bit awkward, but don’t worry! Gukhwa-ppang does not have any flower inside at all! It is the bread baked in a chrysanthemum-shaped mold using dough and red bean paste.
It is called chrysanthemum because the pattern on the bread resembles that flower. Originally, only red beans were added, but now a greater variety of ingredients are used such as honey, peanuts, and walnuts.
18. 붕어빵 (Bungeo-Ppang: Korean Fish Shaped Pastry)
Bungeo-ppang is very similar to gukhwa-ppang. While gukhwa-ppang is put in a chrysanthemum-shaped mold, bungeo-ppang is fish shaped. There is one more thing in terms of difference between them: the texture. Bungeo-ppang is crispier than gukhwa-ppang, which has a thicker and softer dough.
It is also regarded as a winter snack in Korea, so it can be hard to find a street vendor selling bungeo-ppang. However, you can also enjoy a variation of bungeo-ppang in the heat of summer. There is a vanilla ice-cream version of bungeo-ppang called bungeo samanco (붕어 싸만코), which you can find at any convenience store 24/7.
19. 구운 가래떡 (Guwun Garaetteok: Korean Grilled Bar Rice Cake)
Garaetteok is one of the simplest types of rice cake, so the quality of rice determines the taste. Garae rice cake is grilled on briquettes or charcoal and it becomes crisp on the outside and remains soft on the inside. You can enjoy it with honey, syrup, or sugar.
20. 군고구마 (Gun Goguma: Roasted Sweet Potatoes)
There are many countries that use roasted sweet potatoes as a meal or snack. However, this Korean street snack is different from others due to a special cooking machine: the Drum Can. You can see many roasted sweet potato stands on the street using metal drum cans.
Some sellers offer gun goguma with honey and butter, which makes them taste incredible!
21. 핫바 (Hot Bar)
Hot bar is deep-fried fish paste served on a stick or skewer. For more variety in flavors, other ingredients are added, including cheese, rice cake, perilla leaf, chili, seaweed, sausage, or ham.
When you order a hot bar from a street vendor, it is usually made on the spot, as the mixed paste is fried with ground white fish, flour, eggs, and vegetables. If you wish to try other ingredients, the seller will put them inside the paste for you. When you take a bite of a freshly fried and steaming hot bar, you will feel on top of the world!
22. 달고나 (Dalgona: Korean Sponge Candy)
Dalgona resembles honeycomb toffee candy. It’s made by melting sugar with a little baking soda. Depending on the region, it is sometimes called ppopgi (뽑기).
You can often see sellers making different patterns on the candy such as a star, heart, or fish before it hardens completely. Some vendors will even play a small game where you get a free candy if you can eat the candy around the pattern without cracking it.
23. 소떡소떡 (Sotteok Sotteok: Korean Hotdog and Rice Cake Skewers)
The name sotteok sotteok comes from how it is made. So (소) is from sausage, and tteok (떡) from Korean rice cake. A sausage and rice cake are put on a stick in turns and then it is fried or grilled. Then it is coated with ketchup, mustard, or red pepper paste-based spices.
24. 뻥튀기 (Bbeongtwigi: Korean Puffed Rice)
Bbeongtwigi is a snack that is popular for men and women of all ages in Korea. It’s made of puffed rice. If you put rice or any other grain inside a puffing machine, a big piece of bbeongtwigi comes out with a big “bbeong” sound! The name bbeongtwigi comes from twigi, to puff, and the sound bbeong.
It is very crispy and then becomes a little sticky in your mouth. Vendor trucks often moves between towns selling the puffed rice and grains.
25. 회오리 감자 (Hweori Gamja: Tonado potatoes)
The last on our list is hwori gamja, also known as tornado potato or spiral potato. A whole potato is cut into a spiral on a machine, then fried on a skewer and brushed with various seasonings like onion or cheese. Then there is hweori gamja, which has a sausage in the middle.