One of my favorite things to do when traveling is to eat. In fact, it’s probably one of the top reasons I decide to travel to certain countries over others. As someone who’s usually traveling on a budget and likes getting a taste of local culture, you’ll often find me passing over Michelin dinners in favor of roaming the streets for all things cheap, quick, and delicious. In terms of street food, South Korea does not disappoint.
As ubiquitous in the Korean food scene as a slice of pizza is in America. You can’t walk ten steps without running into a vendor tossing these chewy rice cakes around in a giant vat of spicy red sauce. You can order a cup to-go for as little as $3.
Also spelled “kimbap”, this dish is essentially the Korean version of a sushi roll. The two major differences are that 1.) the rice is made with sugar and sesame oil instead of vinegar, and 2.) there’s no raw fish involved. You’ll find it not only in street stands, but in convenience stores and restaurants as well.
This was one of my favorite things while traveling in South Korea. It’s a sweet pancake filled with brown sugar, honey, spices, and nuts, then fried in piping hot oil. #drool
Another favorite! Sundae is Korean blood sausage, and I promise it’s not nearly as gross as it sounds. It tastes like a soft, spongy, pork sausage stuffed with cellophane noodles. Many vendors serve it with extra goodies on the side like pig ear, lung, liver, and so on.
Fish cake on a stick. They come in an endless number of shapes and sizes, and are sold for dirt cheap. You’ll also get a cup of the soup that they’re boiled in when you order one. A perfect snack for winter.
Large, fried, savory pancakes. This is another dish that can be found either on the street or in a restaurant. The most popular variations include seafood pajeon, kimchee pajeon, and mungbean pajeon.
Grilled Rice Cakes & Cheese
So simple, yet so brilliant. They stack rice cakes and mozzarella sticks on top of one another, grill them to perfection, then drizzle the entire thing in sweetened condensed milk. If you’ve never had grilled rice cakes before, you’re in for a treat.
Sugar candy! Another simple and cheap snack, perfect for when you’re craving something sweet after dinner. Liquid sugar is poured onto a hot stovetop and cooked until crispy and brown. Each cookie is usually decorated with a fun shape in the center.
A heaping pile of thick noodles, drowning in a gravy-like black bean sauce. You’ll find bits of pork and vegetables thrown in as well. Order a big bowl for take-out or sample a smaller portion from a street vendor.
These tiny soft-shell crabs are coated in batter, fried, and served in a cup for easy snacking. They usually come topped with sweet chili sauce.
KFC (Korean Fried Chicken) 닭 튀김
I read once that Seoul had more “Chicken & Beer” places than there are McDonald’s in the world. While I highly doubt the validity of this statement, it’s true that Koreans love their fried chicken. If you’re craving some KFC and don’t want to spring for the mountain of chicken that restaurants usually serve, head to a street stall for a snack-size portion.
Pig’s Feet 족발
Another sounds-weird-but-tastes-delicious kind of dish. These little trotters are fatty, porky, and unbelievably tasty. You can find several stalls selling them at Namdaemun Market, or ladies serving them alongside sundae at Gwangjang Market.
Do you have a favorite street snack from a trip abroad? Share below! And don’t forget to subscribe for updates.