30 Best Street Food You Must Try In Seoul, South Korea

street food in korean
| 13 min read

People travel to the South Korean capital of Seoul for many reasons. Do you love KPOP and Korean dramas? Seoul is the beating heart of this, now, worldwide empire. Do you love skincare and are interested in trying other formulas? Seoul’s streets are lined with numerous Korean skincare boutiques. There’s even a district well-known for skincare and makeup! In between, there are temples, huge palace complexes, sprawling botanical gardens, colorful national costumes that you can borrow for a small fee, and most importantly, street food. Seoul isn’t just about Korean BBQ. This is a mecca for street food lovers. To get you started, here are the best street food you must try in Seoul, South Korea.

1. Bindae-tteok (Mung bean pancake)

Korean mung bean pancake-Bindaetteok-01
Source: Photo by user by Junho Jung used under CC BY-SA 3.0

It’s hard to travel to North Korea, but you can still try some of its delicacies in South Korea. For instance, there’s bindae-tteok or savory mung bean pancakes, which hail all the way from Pyongan Province. Bindae-tteok is just one of the many Korean pancakes or buchimgae that you need to get familiar with. Instead of flour and milk, this pancake is made of ground mung beans, shaped into a flat and circular shape, with vegetables and meat. This is a very tasty and healthy treat, with a single serving averaging about 35 calories.

2. Bbobki (Korean sugar candy)

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

This one’s a bit challenging to spell. You can spell in three other ways, and the pronunciation slightly changes every time. The name and spelling might change, but it remains the sugar candy that all Koreans grew up loving. Its primary ingredient is sugar, which is melted then mixed with baking soda. As it “cooks”, it solidifies until it looks somewhat like a cookie. Before the candy fully hardens, people usually draw shapes at the center.

3. Bungeo-ppang (fish-shaped pastry)

Bungeo ppang-Corée du Sud
Source: Photo by user Joriola used under CC BY-SA 3.0

If you’ve had taiyaki in Japan before, this Korean treat won’t come off as much of a surprise. Bungeo-ppang is a ubiquitous Korean street food - you can’t miss this fish-shaped pastry at all! Its golden color alone is enough to grab anyone’s attention. It’s usually filled with sweet red bean paste, but over the years, people have become more adventurous with bungeo-ppangs. Nowadays, you can get some filled with pastry cream, chocolate, and other flavors. Bungeo-ppang is especially popular in the winter.

4. Grilled cheese lobster

Lobster Grilled Cheese
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Mack Male used under CC BY-SA 2.0

People don’t just go to Myeong-dong for Korean skincare and makeup. When the sun starts to set, it transforms into a street food paradise, with numerous food carts lining up the streets. Grilled cheese lobsters are just some of the main attractions here, and it’s exactly like its name implies. For about 15 USD, you can get fresh lobster grilled to perfection then topped with melted cheese. By the way, this is just one of the Korean culinary staples you’ll find that features cheese, so get ready especially if you’re a cheese lover.

5. Beondegi (silkworm pupae)

Beondegi 2
Source: Photo by user Carl Rubino used under CC0

Feeling more adventurous as you explore Korean cuisine? Then you should try beondegi. This famous Korean delicacy is basically steamed or boiled silkworm pupae served in paper cups and then eaten with toothpicks. At first, it looks unappealing, but beondegi is notable for its nutty taste. Some have even said that it tastes slightly fishy. Other vendors in South Korea have gotten adventurous with beondegi too, cooking it with salt and a variety of spices. Some even make candied beondegi! Now, if you want to take this home with you, you can get canned beondegi from most supermarkets in South Korea.

6. Odeng (fishcake)

Source: Photo by user Ryan Bodenstein used under CC BY 2.0

Odeng or fishcake (also called eomuk) is another extremely popular food that you can find anywhere in South Korea. It’s made of seafood, usually white fish, mixed together with sugar, vegetables, and potato starch then processed into different shapes. You can eat it skewered on a stick, or in a soup (eomuk guk), or together with kimbap, making this both a standalone favorite and a popular ingredient in many Korean dishes.

7. Hweori Gamja (tornado potato)

Tornado gamja (Seoul street food) tornado potato
Source: Photo by user tragrpx used under CC0

Move over, French fries, there’s another potato treat in South Korea that’s more fun to eat. Hweori Gamja, also known as tornado potato, twist potatoes, or tornado fries, is another popular street food you can try from just about anywhere in Seoul. A single potato is usually cut by a machine to produce this twisty effect, then it is skewered then fried. Other vendors like to spice it up by sprinkling some seasoning such as cheese, BBQ powder, and chilli powder. Some vendors, however, have taken it one step further by adding slices of sausages in between the spirals.

8. Twigim (deep-fried food)

Source: Photo by Flickr user anokarina used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Twigim is the Korean for “deep-fried” and it is used as an umbrella term for a wide variety of food covered in flour batter then deep-fried. Think of this as the Koreans’ answer to tempura! Twigim can be anything, from deep-fried vegetables to squid, shrimp, potatoes, and even dumplings. They taste fine eaten alone, but twigim tastes even better when you dip it in soy sauce or pair it with tteok-bokki sauce.

9. Dried cuttlefish

Korean snack-dried squid-01
Source: Photo by user john wilbanks used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Looking for a savory snack to take with you as you explore Seoul? Get a bag of dried cuttlefish! Salt and savory at the same time, you can get dried cuttlefish in their full form or shredded for easier chewing. Dried cuttlefish are also sometimes used as an ingredient for other Korean dishes and can also be prepared in other ways. Some people mix the cuttlefish with soy sauce and some gochujang for an even more savory taste.

10. Korean egg toast

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

If you’re in a hurry to catch a train or join a tour and forgot to eat some breakfast, here’s one Korean favorite you can enjoy. Korean egg toast is one of the most preferred “grab-and-go” breakfast meals in Seoul– it’s delicious, it’s filling (enough to fire you up the entire morning), and also easy to take around with you. Korean egg toast (also known as gilgeori toast) is usually made of toast, eggs, sliced vegetables, freshly ground pepper, and some butter. Pair it with some banana milk for a light yet satisfying breakfast or snack.

11. Tteok-bokki (stir-fried rice cakes)

Source: Photo by user 최광모 used under CC0

If we’re to crown the most popular Korean street food ever, we’d give it to tteok-bokki or stir-fried rice cakes. Bright red (or orange) in color, this one’s a scene-stealer in night markets and street food areas. Tteok-bokki’s main component is the long rice cakes which are mixed together with odeng (remember the fishcakes?), scallions, and boiled eggs into a large pot of gochujang, a Korean kind of chili paste. Some vendors pile the rest of the stuff onto bowls of soy sauce, which is the royal take on this popular street food. You might also find some places serving tteok-bokki with melted cheese on top.

12. Crispy crablets

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

Another street food you’ll come across as you explore South Korea’s night markets is crispy crablets. These are basically baby or small crabs covered in batter and then deep-fried until they are light golden in color. Now, you might be worried about the shells. How do you take them off? Well, apparently you don’t. Since baby crabs were used, their shells are much softer and safe to eat as well. These are also lightly seasoned so you can still taste the sea, especially if the vendors used a fresh batch.

13. Bibimbap (Korean rice bowl with vegetables)

Dolsot bibimbap, Hangang, Paris 001
Source: Photo by user Guilhem Vellut used under CC BY 2.0

This one is best enjoyed sitting down. Bibimbap is a staple in Korean cuisine and is probably one of the most aesthetically pleasing dishes ever. There’s just something about how all the vegetables are arranged, with an egg yolk right at the center, that’s so delightful to look at! Bibimbap is essentially a rice dish served in a bowl. It’s topped with a selection of vegetables (namul) or kimchi (sometimes both). Gochujang or soy sauce, as well as beef and raw egg, are also common additions to add to the taste. To eat your bibimbap, you must first stir all of the components together until it’s mixed well.

14. Sundae (blood sausage)

Sundae 4
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user 기분좋아 used under CC BY 4.0

Sundae or blood sausage isn’t just a popular food item in both North and South Korea. It’s also one of the region’s older food traditions. Sundae dates back to the Goryeo period. During that time, people used wild boar to make this kind of blood sausage as it was more prevalent then. Today, sundae is usually made of cow or pig intestines, which are cleaned and then stuffed with other meat, as well as vegetables, and of course, blood. Depending on where you go, you might also encounter other regional varieties of sundae.

15. Baked cheese

05017 baked cheese and onion sandwich
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Silar used under CC BY-SA 3.0

The second cheesy treat on this list, this Korean street food isn’t exactly baked. It’s actually grilled! Nonetheless, you won’t have any regrets trying this. Skewered on a stick, baked cheese is composed of rice cakes and pieces of mozzarella, grilled on a griddle. What we heard through the grapevine is that baked cheese is a relatively new street food, created to accommodate tourists who are looking for something more familiar to eat. So, somebody thought of combining a Korean culinary classic with cheese, which is well-loved all over the globe.

16. Korean fried chicken

Korean fried chicken (banban)
Source: Photo by user ewhity used under CC0

In South Korea, KFC doesn’t stand for Kentucky fried chicken. It means Korean fried chicken, and it’s also finger-lickin’ good, so much so that many restaurants offering this dish have popped up all over the world! But since you’re in Seoul, you get to taste the real thing. What separates Korean fried chicken from other versions of fried chicken is the preparation. Smaller chickens (which usually have tender meat) are used. These are then rubbed with salt, sugar, and other spices, then fried twice. Afterward, a coat of sauce is evenly brushed over the pieces. Enjoy Korean fried chicken as your main meal or your snack. It is best paired with soju, of course!

17. Mandu (Korean dumpling)

Mandu 3
Source: Photo by user Ambir Tolang / go... used under CC0

Do you want to have a taste of Korean royal court cuisine? Try out mandu. These are dumplings that are, like sundae, a part of Korea’s history. According to historians, mandu must have been brought over to the peninsula during the Goryeo period. It found its way to court cuisine during the Joseon dynasty. Today, mandu is enjoyed by the masses, whether it’s steamed, boiled, or fried. There are no protocols– you can get it as street food and choose from an array of options. Some mandu are filled with vegetables, others with different kinds of meat, and sometimes a combination of both.

18. Jokbal (Korean pork trotters)

Jokbal 3
Source: Photo by user wizdata used under CC0

Great for celebrations and large gatherings, jokbal, a hearty dish made of pork trotters, is definitely made for sharing. You can enjoy it in a restaurant setting or buy smaller portions at the night market. This is a tasty dish, with the pork trotters combined with other ingredients such as black peppers, ginger, rice wine, leeks, and cinnamon. Koreans usually eat jokbal by wrapping the pork in lettuce then dipping it in their favorite sauces. Like Korean fried chicken, this also goes great with soju!

19. Takoyaki

Takoyaki by yomi955
Source: Photo by user heiwa4126 used under CC BY 2.0

One look at the map and you’ll see that the Korean peninsula and Japan are situated close to each other. Historically speaking, these two regions are also intertwined. So, it comes as no surprise to find Japanese food deeply embedded in Korean cuisine. Take takoyaki, for example. This famous Japanese snack has made its way to Korean street food culture. There’s no mistaking the round balls cooking in the molded pan, usually filled with octopus and some green onion. Takoyaki is also usually topped with bonito flakes and drizzled with sauce, sometimes mayonnaise as well.

20. Rolled pork belly with vegetables

Rolled pork belly with vegetables

By now, you probably have noticed that a lot of Koreans love to roll up their food. If they can roll it up with something, they will. It’s how rolled pork belly with vegetables must have come about and it’s exactly how it sounds. Vegetables are rolled up with grilled pork belly. Now there’s no excuse to leave the green bits on your plate! This is one of the Asian counterparts of bacon-wrapped asparagus.

21. Gimbap (dried seaweed rice rolls)

Cheese gimbap and tuna gimbap
Source: Photo by user Fun한여자 used under CC BY 4.0

At first glance, gimbap looks like the Japanese norimaki and it’s easy to see why. After all, legend has it that gimbap was loosely inspired by norimaki during the Japanese occupation of Korea. It’s basically cooked rice, rolled together with different kinds of protein and vegetables, onto a sheet of dried nori. Because of its portability and the fact that it’s clean to eat, it’s a popular take-out and picnic food. There are many varieties of gimbap out there, from all-vegetable types to seafood gimbap and even luncheon meat.

22. Grilled abalone with butter

Korean grilled abalone-Jeonbok gui-01
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user by <==Manji==> used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Abalone is extremely popular in South Korea, and Koreans know how to enjoy this seafood well. Sometimes they eat it raw, but sometimes they also grill it with butter. It can be served many ways; on a dish and still on their pearly shells or skewered in a stick so you can take it with you as you explore other food options. If you want to find the best and freshest grilled abalone with butter, we highly recommend you visit Noryangjin Fish Market.

23. Dak-kkochi (grilled chicken skewers)

Dak-kkochi 2
Source: Photo by user Ajumeoni used under CC0

Skewered food (also known as kkochi) is all the rage in Seoul and other parts of South Korea, but if there’s a king of kkochi, it’s definitely dak-kkochi or grilled chicken skewers. Like tteok-bokki, you can find this anywhere in the city, from street food stalls to even brick-and-mortar restaurants. The preparation is simple and easy as well. Bite-sized bits of dak or chicken are skewered on a stick, sometimes alternating with scallions or other types of vegetables. Then it’s grilled, with some brushed over with sauce.

24. Gyeran-ppang (Korean egg bread)

Gyeranppang (egg bread) (Seoul street food)
Source: Photo by user tragrpx used under CC0

Let’s take a break from all the savory Korean street food. This time around, let’s refresh our tastebuds with some gyeran-ppang or Korean egg bread. This snack is essentially a loaf of bread baked with a whole egg inside of it. Other makers prepare gyeran-ppang by pouring the batter (which consists of flour, vanilla extract, milk, eggs, baking powder, salt, and butter, among other things) on oblong-shaped molds, and then cracking an entire egg on top of the batter. You can have this as is, or request to have it topped with some cheese and parsley. This is best enjoyed when warm, so eat it as soon as you get it!

25. Kimchi

Kimchi, Baptori, Paris 20 September 2016
Source: Photo by user Guilhem Vellut used under CC BY 2.0

This one needs no introduction; kimchi is quite famous now all over the world, especially with Korean restaurants popping up here and there. Unbeknownst to many, however, kimchi is not just fermented cabbage. You can make it with that, you can make it with radish, you can make it with other types of vegetables. To date, there are over a hundred different types of kimchi from various parts of South Korea. And to think this is usually just a humble side dish! Kimchi is also old; its origins date back to the Three Kingdoms, making it a staple dish in Korean cuisine for millennia.

26. Jajangmyeon (Korean-style Chinese noodles)

Jajangmyeon by KFoodaddict
Source: Photo by user KFoodaddict used under CC BY 2.0

Another outside culinary influence that found its way to the Korean peninsula is Chinese noodles. Korea’s version, jajangmyeon, first made the rounds in the early 20th century when it was introduced by a Chinese restaurant in Incheon Chinatown. Thick noodles, which are either machine- or handmade, are fried with the sauce called jajang together with other ingredients such as meat, soy sauce, vegetables, garlic, and scallions. However, jajangmyeon can be prepared in many ways and, as such, have different varieties. Others use dry sauce, while some feature seafood such as squid and mussel. Needless to say, all of them are good and are definitely dishes you should try.

27. Steamed octopus legs

Steamed octopus legs
Source: Pixabay

You might be familiar with san-nakji, which is live octopus sashimi, but if you feel like it’s too much for you and your taste buds, South Korea has something a little tamer: steamed octopus legs! The tentacles are usually chopped into smaller, bite-sized pieces. Some food vendors skewer them on sticks for easier, on-the-go eating, while others just serve it on small plates. Steamed octopus legs work extremely well with sesame dipping sauce.

28. Jang uh gui (boiled and grilled eel)

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

Let’s move on to the next seafood snack that will surely get your mouth watering and your taste buds craving for more. Jang uh gui is freshwater eel, sliced into smaller pieces and marinated in a sauce until it’s finally time to broil or grill (some vendors do both) to achieve maximum taste. As vendors cook the eel, they’ll consistently brush over the same sauce they used to marinate. This sauce is made of rice wine, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, a dash of sugar, and red chilli pepper flakes called gochugaru in South Korea. Because it’s so high in protein, a plate of jang uh gui is filling and can even boost your stamina.

29. Hotteok (Korean sweet pancakes)

Source: Photo by user Korea.net used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Hotteok is Korea’s take on pancakes that we all know and love. While bindae-tteok is made of mashed mung beans, hotteok features basic pancake elements such as wheat flour, milk, and water. Koreans, however, add some sugar and yeast to make the pancakes rise and have a sweet taste. They leave the batter for several hours and then divided into smaller portions that are stuffed with a syrup-like filling. This filling often contains brown sugar, cinnamon, and honey, which adds to the hotteok’s sweetness. Once the dough is ready, they’re pressed flat on a greased griddle to cook. Koreans love it so much that companies have decided to sell their own pre-mixed hotteok, available in supermarkets and ready to be cooked at home. The freshly made ones, however, remain the best.

30. Pajeon (Korean savory pancakes)

Source: Photo by user by WordRidden used under CC BY 2.0

From sweet pancakes, we’re moving on to the savory kind. Popularly known as pajeon, this Korean savory pancake is sort of like okonomiyaki from Japan. Its dominant ingredient is scallions, mixed in with a batter that’s made of a combination of rice and wheat flour and eggs. Usually, other ingredients are added onto the mix, such as other vegetables, meat, and even seafood. If, however, one other ingredient becomes more dominant than scallions (which is “pa” in Korean, hence pajeon), it becomes a different kind of pancake. Keep scallions the main star of the dish and it remains a pajeon.

Feast on traditional favorites

Korean.snacks-Street food-01
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user by LWY used under CC BY 2.0

In this day and age when dining is no longer restricted to homes and restaurants, Korean street food is definitely making waves. And as such, markets have become centers of culinary innovation, where you can try Korean street food unavailable anywhere else. Come to Seoul to feast on traditional favorites and savor unique snacks. Don’t forget your banana milk!

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Vanna is born and raised in the Philippines and describes herself as a local tourist-- she's made it her mission to see as many of the country's 7,000+ islands. But that doesn't mean she's not...Read more

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