When thinking of Korean food one might immediately think of Korean BBQ, a leisurely meal enjoyed with friends and soju, however, not all your meals in Seoul need to be this formal and slow-paced, if you are out and about, one of the best ways to fuel on the go is to do as Koreans do, and stop at one of the many Korean street foods stands.
Since there are no specific meals designated as breakfast, lunch, or dinner, Korean street food works for all times of day and offers a great variety of dishes, from savory snacks to sweet bites and even spicy small plates.
Here are some of the Korean street food dishes you need to try in Seoul:
Korean Street Food in Seoul
Dumplings pork and kimchi (Mandu)
If you found this blog post I’m sure you already know what dumplings are, but just in case, dumplings are little doughy pockets that are filled with some type of meat or vegetables—in South Korea, pork and kimchi seem to be the two most popular Mandu fillings.
These delicious savory bites can be enjoyed as either a midday snack, lunch, or dinner, and can be easily found throughout Seoul. One of my favorite dumpling stands is in the middle of the Myeongdong Night Market, which is one of the best things to do in Seoul, especially for foodies.
You cannot leave South Korea without trying this popular Korean street food dish!
Fish-shaped cakes with red bean paste (Bungeoppang)
Another Korean street food favorite is Bungeoppang, a fish-shaped bread that is traditionally filled with sweet red bean paste but can nowadays be found with Nutella, custard, or even cheese.
Bungeoppang is exclusively sold during the winter months since it makes the perfect pick-me-up snack while being out in the cold, and luckily you do not have to walk far to find it, this cute-looking bread is everywhere in Seoul, so make sure to give them a try if they are in season during your visit.
Chicken skewers (Dakkochi) snack
South Korean cuisine is heavily based on pork, and sometimes, for picky eaters like me, the pork can be a bit too fatty, luckily, good old chicken is readily available in the form of skewers, or Dakkochi.
This Korean street food dish is as simple as it sounds, chicken pieces on a stick grilled in front of you on a street stand.
The seller will ask for your preferred level of spiciness and then proceed to torch the skewers in front of you, if you need more flavor there are always a variety of sauces for you to add on top, and when you are done eating, there is a little bowl where you leave your empty wooden stick, no need to carry a pointy object around in your pocket.
Egg bread (Gyeranppang)
A straightforward Korean street food, egg bread or Gyeranppang is literally a small loaf of bread with one fried egg on top, some sellers will add sugar to the bread to turn it into a sweet snack but mostly it tends to be savory.
You can find these stands all around Seoul, but I feel like I mostly saw them close to metro exits where rushing students and businessmen would stop for a quick snack before continuing on with their day.
I feel like these would make a great breakfast option for people that are used to having eggs in the morning since it can be hard to find western breakfast food in Korea.
Samgak-Kimbap (Triangle kimbap)
Samgak-Kimbap has to be by far the Korean street food that I ate the most while in South Korea—possibly at least once per day—they are simple, light, and incredibly affordable.
Samgak Kimbap is a triangle kimbap, a small rice triangle wrapped in a seaweed sheet that can contain a variety of fillings, like egg, sausage, spicy meat, and my favorite, tuna mayonnaise.
These always saved the day when I needed to have something for lunch but didn’t have time to find a restaurant or didn’t want to sit down for a meal, I would just stop by a GS25 and grab one or two and keep going with my day, they are also great to take on day trips as emergency snacks.
Roasted chestnuts (Gunbam)
The smell of roasted chestnuts in the air can only mean one thing; colder days are coming.
Roasted chestnuts are a typical Korean street food that you will only be able to enjoy from late autumn, and through the winter months.
This sweet buttery snack makes the perfect on-the-go bite while exploring out in the cold under the twinkly festive lights in Seoul.
One of the most popular Korean street food dishes has to be the Kimbap.
To the western eye, the Kimbap would easily be confused with some type of sushi roll, however, they are entirely different, the preparation of the rice is different, and most importantly, the fillings, Kimbap doesn’t have raw seafood in them.
Kimbaps normally have some type of protein such as egg, some type of cooked meat, or cooked seafood, accompanied by a variety of vegetables all rolled up in seaweed, and if it helps to relate it to something, my Korean friend agreed that the Kimbap is the Korean equivalent to the sandwich, the perfect quick lunch option for the busy person.
Another tasty Korean street food dish that lures you in with just the smell is the delicious Hotteok, a crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside kind of pancake that is filled with brown sugar, honey, and nuts. So basically, the perfect fix for a sweet tooth.
You will only be able to find this sweet snack over the winter months, luckily, I remember there were a few stands around the Bukchon Hanok Village, so make sure to pick one up while exploring the beautiful and snow-covered Hanok-lined streets.
Another Korean street food meal that I seem to find in every big metro station in Seoul is the unmissable Tteokbokki, a dish that consists of chewy rice cakes that swim in a bright red spicy chili sauce, definitely a favorite with the locals, the stands are always packed!
This dish is considered a snack and tends to be accompanied by a side of something fried, like squid, sweet potato, or even with a kimbap.
Pro tip from a Korean friend: Dip the kimbap in Tteokbokki sauce for the ultimate combo!
Sundae (Korean blood sausage)
For the more adventurous eaters out there, another popular Korean street food you might be interested to try is Sundae, Korean blood sausage, which is typically made out of pork blood mixed with noodles and glutinous rice.
If you want to try to incorporate it into a meal just for the sake of trying it, you can always accompany it with Tteokbokki.
Fish cakes with soup (Eomuk tang)
Another dish that goes hand in hand with the popular Tteokbokki is Emouk tang, fish cakes with soup.
Emouk tang is a popular Korean street food—that is also prepared at home in many Korean households—that consists of a deep-fried paste made of minced fish fillets mixed with a bit of flour and some vegetables, skewered on a stick, that is served with a cup of rich salty broth in which you bathe the fried skewered cake in.
This Korean street food dish seemed to be incredibly popular with students and younger Koreans, so make sure to give it a try!
Korean candied sweet potatoes (Goguma Mattang)
Goguma Mattang is a sweet snack consisting of deep-fried sweet potato cubes, covered in a brown sugary syrup that gives it a crunchy exterior. I had never seen this way of preparing sweet potatoes before, but I have to say that I quite enjoyed it.
This Korean street food is popular with all age groups since it is a dish that Koreans grow up preparing at home as well.
Korean croquettes are another popular Korean street food dish that you will easily encounter while exploring Seoul.
This savory snack consists of a fried ball of dough that is filled with warm mashed potatoes and either meat, vegetables, or seafood, and it makes the perfect snack on the go, especially in the cold winter months, when it can double up as a hand warmer as you eat it.
You might already know about this typical Korean street food thanks to the wildly popular Netflix TV show, Squid Game, which brought it back to popularity even in Korea, where it used to be mostly known to older generations.
Dalgona cookies are a nostalgic Korean snack that is made of sugar and baking soda and can be found throughout Seoul in small street stalls. If you are a fan of the show you will definitely want to try it, and if you are not but have a sweet tooth, you will definitely enjoy it.
Mung bean pancakes (Bindaetteok)
I first learned about Bindaetteok (mung bean pancakes) thanks to the Netflix special about the Gwangjang market, and you can bet that I went to the market, and I found that woman from the show, tried those pancakes, and fell in love, so now I need everyone to try them.
Bindaetteok is made from ground mung beans mixed with green onion, kimchi, pork, and mung bean sprouts, the batter is then cooked in a circular shape and served with kimchi and pickled onions—and in my opinion, it tastes like a very flavorful omelet, in the best way!
That is why I think Bindaetteok is a safe bet for travelers that are not too adventurous when it comes to food but are wanting to explore more Korean street food dishes.
A Korean friend of mine also mentioned that growing up her mom made them at home and served them with rice, for either lunch or dinner.
Brown sugar spiral (Kkwabaegi)
This sweet Korean street food snack has been haunting my dreams ever since I tried it for the first time in the Gwanjang market.
In reality, Kkwabaegi is quite simple, it is a kind of doughnut consistency bread that is shaped into a twist and covered with brown sugar, pretty straightforward, but honestly, you just have to try them to understand my obsession.
There are many stands throughout Seoul, but my favorite one by far is the one at Gwanjang Market, you will know when you see it, there is always a line of both returning locals and curious tourists.
If you are visiting Korea in the warmer months you have to try Patbingsu, a popular summer dessert that consists of shaved ice with flavored syrup on top.
The most traditional flavor of Patbingsu is condensed milk and red bean sauce as toppings, but nowadays it can also be found with all different kinds of fruity flavors.
Definitely, a Korean street food item to try during those warm summer days of walking around the city.
Sugar-covered grapes (Thangulu)
Thangulu is not traditionally Korean, it is actually a Chinese way of candying different types of fruits, however, while exploring Seoul you will notice the eye-catching Korean grapes on display on many stands, and some of them also offer them in a candied form.
The Shine Muscat grapes are so popular in Korea that I would consider trying them a must, either on their own or in a candied form, they are both delicious!
Hope you found this guide on Korean street food helpful and that it eases the confusion of deciding what to eat while walking through the streets of Seoul. Have you tried any of these tasty Korean street food snacks yet?