This past June, I spent 10 days in Seoul to do some research and to present my paper at a conference. But of course, I didn’t stop with my food exploration while abroad. I’ll be writing several posts over the next few weeks to document the food adventures that I had in Seoul!
For this first Seoul post, I’ll cover the street foods that I ate! I regretted not trying as much street food as I could but I’ll profile the foods that I did try! Any suggestions for next time as well are welcome!
The first street food that I had in Seoul were these delicious chestnuts right outside of the Anguk Station (I think it was Exit #3). I love roasted chestnuts and these were flavorful and meaty – they have a texture similar to that of a baked potato and are deceptively filling.
Here’s a close-up of the chestnut! Yum! They were a little pricey at 5,000 won (a little less than $5 USD) and I heard from my friend that it was because chestnuts are in season during winter and they’re not a very popular summer food. So I’m guessing this was a tourist trap, but a very delicious one!
This is technically not street food, but I did buy it from a vendor inside the Coex Mall. That counts, right? Anyways, I was dying of thirst and I saw this drink: “아이스 초콜릿” or “Iced Chocolate.” It sounded interesting so I wanted to try it! I was quite horrified when I saw the cashier take instant hot chocolate powder and slowly stirred it into cold water…I was having horrible visions of drinking water flavored with grainy bits of chocolate powder!!! But she did an amazing job and somehow all of that powder blended into the drink and I didn’t have to worry about residual chocolate powder in my teeth. The final result tasted exactly like Nesquik and brought me back to my childhood; plus, it was quite refreshing!
While I was sightseeing in the Gwanghawmun area (where all the palaces are), I came across a street vendor that was selling these little red bean pastries. I had eaten breakfast earlier that day, but when I came across this vendor I had already been through a palace tour (Changdoekgung) and a museum tour (The National Folk Museum), so I was super hungry!
After taking a bite, I realized that these tasted very similar to a Chinese-style red bean paste bun that I love! They also taste very similar to taiyaki – the Japanese red bean paste pastry in the shape of a fish – because of the dough that was used. For 2,000 won (a little less than $2 USD), I got about 10 pieces and before I knew it, they were all gone! For a ravenous tourist walking around in 90 degrees hot and humid weather, these are the perfect snack to tide you over until the next meal (unless you’re like me and eat all of them in one sitting in which case you’ll be too full to eat anything else).
While walking around in Ssamziegil and the surrounding area (a shopping area close to Anguk Station), I came across this vendor selling these deep-fried rice cakes. The smell was so delicious that I couldn’t resist! She had a variety of different flavors ranging from somewhat savory to sweet. From left to right: autumn squash, curry cheese, bulgogi, sweet potato, and pizza. I wanted ALL of them, but my stomach doesn’t take too kindly to fried foods, so I ended up only trying one.
While in Seoul, I’ve been indulging my cravings and love for sweet potatoes, so I chose the sweet potato flavor. The outside was super greasy so it wasn’t the most pleasant of meals but the inside was perfectly tasty! The sweetness of the potatoes goes along perfectly with the stickiness of the outside. I should have been a little bit more adventurous though and tried that pizza flavor…
Admittedly I didn’t do too much research on food before leaving for Seoul, but I have heard about this famous street food: the tornado potato! Essentially it’s deep-fried potato spiraled around a long stick and by long, I mean that this stick was about the full length of my torso. It’s very difficult to eat this and walk at the same time without looking stupid, but the potato was so tasty I didn’t really care! Before handing the stick over to me, the vendor dipped it in what looked like powdered cheese seasoning like the kind that you would put on popcorn. The powder had a slight artificial cheesy flavor like Cheetoes and was just about as addicting as eating Cheetoes! The potatoes tasted like kettle potato chips – instead of being in a bag, they were on a stick! Maybe this is a tourist novelty, but at 2,000 won these were definitely worth it! There are about 10 different carts in Myeondong offering this treat at pretty much the same prices!
Along with the trend of long street foods, this is the loooong ice cream that I’ve also read about! Think typical frozen soft serve ice cream and this is it – I had this after a long day of sight-seeing and it was perfectly refreshing for a hot and humid Seoul night. Unfortunately though, I should have just gone with a regular-sized ice cream because this ice cream while crunchy and cold at first, melts FAST. My hands ended up getting completely covered in melted ice cream and I felt like I was fighting a losing battle while trying to lick the melting ice cream as fast as possible. Delicious but a little impractical unless you’re a fast eater! I ate this while also in Myeondong, but I’ve seen prices vary from 2,000 won to 5,000 among the vendors – I got mine for 2,000 won after scouring around the area for a bit.
And now for two street foods that I took pictures of, but did not get to try. These are both in the Insadong area right around the Ssamziegil shopping complex. These poopy pastries were super popular and the mascots are adorable! They are called 똥빵…poop bread! I ended up not getting any because the line was ridiculously long so I just snapped a picture. At the top of the Ssamziegil complex is a sit-down cafe/restaurant featuring this poop bread as well!
I saw this also while walking around Insadong. The tubes are actually fried dough and they’re injected with soft-serve ice cream so you eat your ice cream while chewing on these giant tubes! I decided not to get them, but I’m think these are probably a better alternative to the long ice cream in terms of making less of a mess. So many tourists were having fun eating these though that I’m a little bummed out about not buying one now!
I realized I missed out on a ton of street foods, but there’s always next time! What are you favorite street foods in Korea or elsewhere?