As winter arrives with a chill in the air and longer nights, you can see long lines of people hoping to grab a warm bite at street vendors that come out in force in wintertime.
Unfortunately, spotting street vendors for winter snacks has become more of a challenge as a result of high inflation, the prolonging pandemic and bigger businesses such as coffee franchises and home meal kit producers having begun to offer winter snacks.
However, many people still find hot snacks fresh off the street vendor’s stove irresistible. Even a mobile application that shows locations of winter snack vendors, launched in 2021, has been downloaded 50,000 times.
The following three winter snacks are some of the iconic Korean street snacks you will be unable to resist should you stumble upon them.
Bungeoppang, fish-shaped waffle
Bungeoppang in Korean means “carp bread,” and is like a fish-shaped waffle filled with sweet red bean paste.
Bungeoppang is the signature Korean winter snack that people of any age can enjoy. The snack is known for its crispy waffle texture, the chewy middle, then the sweet filling of red bean.
The snack is typically made by frying flour dough in a fish-shaped iron mold, similar to a waffle iron. Red bean paste is then added in the middle.
The most beloved winter snack has evolved. Vendors have taken it a step further and the snack now comes in different shapes and sizes -- some in bite sizes. The filling has also been diversified in many variations, like custard cream, sweet potato, curry or pizza.
“I say this is the most iconic street snack for winter,” said a middle-aged lady at a vendor in Huam-dong, central Seoul.
“Young children, students and the elderly visit here to buy bungeoppang. Younger people look for custard cream bungeoppang because it’s sweeter. But red bean is the bestseller for all generations,” she said.
Prices vary from region to region, but it is usually about 1,000 or 2,000 won ($0.75-$1.50) for two pieces.
Egg bread is known for a combination of “danjjan” -- sweet and salty. The mixture of sweet bread and the salty cooked egg makes a perfect pairing.
This is another iconic type of “pulppang” made in an iron mold, along with bungeoppang. Some bigger vendors sell both bungeoppang and egg bread.
The snack is cooked over fire by pouring the flour batter into a bread mold and adding one whole egg.
Some vendors add the dough over it again, while others let the egg swell. They also can come with different toppings like mozzarella cheese or ketchup.
“To me, egg bread is more a meal than a snack,” said a college student as she bought two from a vendor in the area of Sinchon, Seoul. She said she often buys the egg bread on her way home.
“I live nearby so I can keep the snack hot. I was really happy to see (the vendor) sells egg bread,” she said. "It’s really hard to find an egg bread vendor these days."
Typical prices are 1,500 won for one piece served hot in a paper bag.
Hotteok, sugar-filled fried pancake
The sizzling sound and nutty smell from "ho-tteok" -- not "hot-teok" -- or a crispy sweet pancake, is the surest treat to lure in people passing by on the street. There are long lines even in the middle of the day in front of two popular hotteok vendors at Gwangjang Market in Jongno, central Seoul, on weekdays.
The dough is made from a mixture of regular and glutinous rice flour. A small fistful of dough is stuffed with a classic mixture of brown sugar, cinnamon and nuts, then flattened on a generously oiled big pan into a thin wide circle. They are turned over several times to make the bottoms crispy. The melted brown sugar filling becomes syrupy -- creating a perfect combination of a crispy outside with a chewy texture on the inside.
The all-time favorite has also evolved to allow for different varieties of dough or filling. Some vendors offer matcha, green tea and mugwort dough, while more savory fillings such as vegetables, noodles, red bean, cream cheese and pizza have also been introduced.
The snack is usually 1,000 to 2,000 won for one piece and is often served in a small paper cup.
“I am surprised that so many foreigners are coming to buy hotteok. They love the original hotteok with sticky rice. Usually, elderly customers look for mugwort hotteok,” said a middle-aged woman at a vendor in Gwangjang Market.