Korean street food has traditionally been seen as a part of its popular culture. Interesting about Korean street food is its variety and accessibility. When roaming the streets of Seoul, you will come across many tiny stalls selling almost any type of food your heart could desire. Many of South Korea’s street food is sold by ajusshi (아저씨) and ajumma (아즘마), which is Korean for older men and women.
There are many kinds of traditional street food in South Korea. For example, glutinous rice cakes, filled pancakes, and fish-shaped bread filled with red bean paste. These traditional street foods are most common in the winter season; in the summer season, ice cream is more popular.
In the Joseon Dynasty street vendors began to form a base of economic activity in the low-income bracket around markets. It was in the 1300s when food stalls started to arise at the Joseon markets.
After the Korean War street vendors prospered by serving refugees and the large numbers of U.S. troops. During this time street food became an important part of Korean food culture, especially because they provided people with a lower standard of living with affordable meals. Before the 1960s, most of the food sold at street stalls were 찐빵, steamed bread filled with red-bean paste, and 호빵, steamed buns that could be filled with vegetables or meats. Around the 1970s popular foods such as 떡볶이, boiled rice cakes and fish cakes in spicy sauce, and 김밥, seaweed rolls filled with rice and various fillings, were introduced to the street food market.
A visit to South Korea is not complete without eating a whole lot of street food. But, when you first arrive, the amount of options can seem kind of insane. To deal with this, I will discuss some of the most popular street food items, which definitely belong on your must-try street food list.
Two of the most popular items have already been mentioned, which are 떡볶이 and 김밥. Both of these can be found practically anywhere, and whereas 떡볶이 is great for those among us who love spicy foods, 김밥 is a great option for those who do not do to well with spicy foods, or those among us who like some variation. 김밥 can be filled with many things, but some of the basic fillings are tuna, kimchi, beef, or even cheese. Two more important items to include when discussing Korean street food are 만두 and 어묵. 만두 are Korean dumplings which can be found in many different shapes and sizes, and include many different fillings. 어묵 are fish cakes, which are generally served on a stick, in a cup of broth.
Some other popular street foods include 호뗙, 핫도그, and 붕어빵. These three items are fried, delicious goodness. 호뗙 are pancakes usually filled with honey and nuts, but nowadays you can find them filled with both savoury and sweet fillings. 핫도그, literally hotdog, are usually battered sausages on a stick. You can find them with different batters, and sometimes with different fillings, such as half sausage, half mozzarella, or filled with Korean traditional sausages. 봉어빵 are fish shaped breads, usually filled with red bean paste, however, nowadays you can also find these with a variety of fillings.
Traditionally street food was only seen at markets or on crowded streets, but it is now more widespread. In some regions dedicated street food streets have been built. In Seoul some of the most popular places to get street food are Myeongdong and Noryangjin. Myeongdong is very popular for street foods. From traditional food such as chicken skewers to unique new concepts of food such as deep-fried blue crab, grilled scallops and more. Noryangjin’s street food is formed around exit 1 of the Noryangjin station, where many street vendors gather. Other popular places are for example Namdaemun Market.