Winter in Korea is one of the coldest and coziest seasons. In winter the temperature in Korea drops up to -10°C or below. During this time, most people are often at home with their families or are wearing long padding coats in the streets as they get about their daily life. Winter is also the season where people naturally tend to look for food or drinks that keep their bodies warm. In Korea, more than a cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows floating or a warm cup of coffee, what signals winter’s arrival are the season’s iconic street food.
Bungeo-ppang literally translates to Fish bread in English. But this is not really a fish nor is it bread. It is a pastry that is fish shaped and usually filled with sweetened red bean paste. It is crispy on the outside and made using a special mold that gives it its unique shape. Besides the red bean paste, this pastry is also filled in with Choux cream, chocolate and other toppings.
Bungeo-ppang was inspired by a Japanese snack called Taiyaki that was introduced in the 1930s in Korea. However, while the Taiyaki was an inspiration driven from the Western waffles, Bungeo-ppang is a fusion of the Eastern dumplings and Western waffles.
To make Bungeo-ppang is one of the easiest if you have the special mold. The batter for this street food is made using wheat flour, baking powder, milk/water and eggs. It is then poured into the mold and a chosen filling is added into the center. Once it’s cooked on both sides, the pastry is then served in a paper bag that is a classic packaging for most street foods.
Eomuk with Hot Broth (Eomuk Guk)
Eomuk is a processed fish cake that is served in skewers after being cooked in a light and savory broth. It is served in a plastic cup in many street stalls and are often seen featured in Kdramas. Eomuk is made of pureed fish and other seafood.
It also originates from a Japanese dish called Oden. Oden is a stew made using fish cake and many other delicacies. But the Korean version of it is much simpler and made mostly using fish cakes and radish.
Gyeran-ppang is an oblong shaped street snack that is sweet and savory with an egg inside the dough. In English, it literally translates to ‘egg bread’ and is fluffy and warm.
Like the Bungeo-ppang, Gyeran-ppang is also made using a special mold and a cake batter. This batter consists of wheat flour, baking powder, eggs, sugar, milk, butter, salt and vanilla extract. The batter is poured into the mold and an egg is added in the center to create the classic Gyeran-ppang. Other versions of it include fillings like cheese and parsley too.
Gamja hotdogs are the perfect combination of sausage and potatoes. It is also made in different versions by coating it with cheese and other ingredients. The batter for the Gamja-hotdog is made using flour, baking powder, milk, egg, salt and sugar. Once the sausage is dipped into this batter, it is then coated with potato cubes and covered with bread crumbs before they are deep fried.
Gunbam are roasted chestnuts that are popular street food in North and South Korea. It has a nutty and smoked flavor and was originally a delicacy for royals and yangban officers. At present these roasted chestnuts are sold in paper bags in the streets, from late autumn towards the entirety of winter. There is also a popular folk song that centers around these roasted chestnuts called Gunbam taryeong, which translates to the ‘ballad of roasted chestnuts’.
A Korean winter snack list is never complete without a freshly toasted Gungoguma that is wrapped in an aluminium foil. Gungoguma are sweet potatoes served warm and fresh on the streets of Korea. You will most likely find these being sold by an ahjusshi near the subway station or a school, for a cheap price as W2000. Though any kind of Gungogumas can be used when roasting these in drum cans many prefer the moist sweet potatoes called Hobak Gungoguma over firmer ones like Bam Gungoguma.
Gonggal bbang is a balloon shaped bread that translates to lying bread. Its name derives from 공갈 that means lie and 빵 that means bread. The reason this snack is given this name is because of the fluffed up outside and the hollow inside. It was created by Chinese immigrants who lived in Korea and is a street snack many look forward to in winter. A classic Gonggal bbang has peanuts and sesame seeds mixed into the batter with honey on the inside or a filling made of sugar, sesame seeds and cinnamon powder.