Travellers to Korea in winter can see incredible sights, including snow-covered palaces, dazzling lighting festivals, and sparkling Christmas decorations. However, the true beauty of Korean winter can be seen in the small street stalls and steamy traditional restaurants selling hot Korean winter foods that power people through the cold days.
Long-suffering Koreans battle the brutal winter cold with a cocktail of spicy soups, boiling stews, salty snacks, and healthy meals. And a whole lot of fried food. From street food snacks to Korean winter dishes that are best shared, food is the weapon that keeps Korea fighting every winter.
Here are 20 of the best winter street snacks and traditional Korean dishes that you absolutely must sample this winter in Korea. They’ll lift your soul, warm your belly, and make your mouth water. Indulge in these culinary delights right now.
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Delicious Korean Winter Foods For You
I want to introduce not only the best Korean winter dishes you can enjoy in a cosy restaurant or cook at home, but also the best winter street snacks you can enjoy out and about as you travel.
If you want to know more about Korean food, then make sure you check out this finger-licking good guide to 20 of the best traditional Korean dishes you can discover in Korea.
Top 10 Korean Winter Street Foods
Winter in Korea is cold and tough, with temperatures often below 0 degrees Celsius even during the day. When you’re outside in the snow or cold weather, you’ll want something warm and satisfying to munch to cheer (and fill) you up.
Korean winter street foods are perfect for this and these salty, sweet, spicy (often all at once) dishes will warm your soul and give you the energy you need during winter.
Here are 10 of the best, starting with my absolute favourite.
1: Hotteok (호떡) Korean Sweet Pancakes
Hotteok is my favourite of all Korean winter foods. You’ll find hotteok across Korea, from city streets to national parks, and I love to grab one when I’m hiking or out exploring cities.
Walk along a busy street in Korea during winter and you’ll probably find a hotteok seller flipping and pressing down the balls of sticky dough filled with sweet syrup, cinnamon, and crunchy nuts that become hotteok.
The combo of fried, sweet, crunchy goodness in a hotteok, along with the warmth it gives you as you gingerly hold it, really gives you a boost.
2: Bungeo-Ppang (붕어빵) Goldfish Bread
Arguably the most popular Korean winter food for amongst locals and tourists alike is this cute goldfish bread. Baked in a fish-shaped mould, this treat not only looks great, it also tastes great.
Stuffed with sweet red-bean paste, something you’ll find in a lot of Korean baked goods, this fish is a classic Korean winter snack. Crispy on the outside, sweet and delicious on the inside.
Like most Korean snack foods, you can find these in small stalls on street corners and in Korean markets. Try it and you certainly won’t regret it.
3: Tteok-Bokki (떡볶이) Spicy Stir Fried Rice Cakes
This is one of the best Korean winter foods that you shouldn’t pass up if you’re exploring traditional markets in Korea. Best eaten fresh from the market vendors, this spicy, salty mishmash of classic Korean ingredients is certainly perfect as a snack or meal.
Tteok-bokki is a blend of steamed and sliced rice cakes (tteok 떡), fish cakes (odeng 오뎅), and scallions in a sweet and spicy sauce with plenty of chili paste.
4: Eomuk (어묵) Fish Cakes
A trip to Korea wouldn’t be complete without sampling eomuk and all its fishy goodness. These cheap, delicious fish cakes on a stick can be found across Korea in markets, festivals, convenience stores, train stations, and even at the top of mountains.
The fish cake is cut thickly and skewered on a wooden stick. It’s best eaten with a paper cup full of the soup it’s boiled in. You can feel the warmth returning to your body as you enjoy them both.
Koreans love this and it’s very popular with tourists, too. Grab some and find out why it’s one of the best Korean winter foods. Busan is famous for eomuk, so be sure to try it there.
5: Gun-Bam (군밤) Roasted Chestnuts
Chestnuts are plentiful in South Korea and they’re added to many Korean dishes (and even makgeolli). One of the best ways to try them is roasted over a fire or in a hot drum.
The heat cracks their shells and cooks the nut inside, allowing you to easily open up the chestnut and get to the warm, nutty goodness inside.
Huddle up around the fire and stay warm while you wait for your bag of freshly toasted wholesome nourishment.
6: Gun-Goguma (군고구마) Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Along with roasted chestnuts, you’ll also find lots of people selling roasted sweet potatoes in winter time in Korea.
Wrapped in a simple piece of paper, feel the warmth flowing out from this healthy snack as you hold it and pick apart the skin to get to the hot, sweet potato flesh inside.
These are a messy but wonderful treat that you can eat as you explore Korea’s parks and public spaces.
7: Hodu-Gwaja (호두과자) Walnut Cookies
Hodu-gwaja are baked treats made from flour and crushed walnuts and filled with red-bean paste. They’re baked in a walnut-shaped mould to give them this distinctive shape.
A Korean staple for a long time, these little bite-sized baked balls of goodness are certainly one of the best Korean winter snacks to share. Grab a dozen and munch them as you go, or share them with friends or family.
8: Gyeran-Ppang (계란빵) Egg Bread
A classic street food from the food stalls of Myeongdong Market and similar places. You should certainly grab one of these whilst out shopping for bargains.
This delectable dish is as simple as it sounds – an egg on top of a slice of toasted bread. Hot, gooey, a bit messy, and yet so warming and satisfying on a cold winter’s day.
Even better, they’re really cheap. That makes them perfect as a snack or a cheap breakfast on the go, so be sure to pick one up.
9: Ramyeon (라면) Instant Noodles
Ramyeon noodles feature in several of these Korean winter foods, but a bowl of steaming, spicy instant noodles makes for a great snack or light lunch on a cold winter’s day by themselves.
You’ll find ramyeon noodles absolutely everywhere in Korea, with dedicated sections of convenience stores ready to help you prepare them that come with chopsticks and boiling water.
In some places you might even find machines dedicated to making ramyeon, like the one in the picture above.
10: Korean Hot Dogs (핫도그)
Korean hot dogs (AKA corn dogs) and gamja hot dogs (potato-covered hot dogs) are a strange mix of sweet and salty that provide a cheap, delicious snack any time of year.
These hot dogs are coated in a batter before being deep fried and topped with sugar… and then tomato ketchup and mustard. Yes, an unusual combination, but one that works well.
Grab one of these Korean hot dogs from street food stalls or even in dedicated hole-in-the-wall style restaurants that specialise in these snacks. Try the cheese ones, too.
Want To Try A Korean Cooking Course In Seoul?
Why don’t you try learning a new skill when you visit Seoul? Enjoy making a range of delicious Korean dishes for any weather on a cooking course. Learn to make delicious Korean dishes to share with your friends and family and take home more than just souvenirs.
Top 10 Korean Winter Dishes
If the cold weather is too much, duck into a traditional Korean restaurant and sample some of these belly-warming Korean winter dishes.
From healthy chicken rice-porridge, to spicy kimchi dishes, and savoury dumpling soups, there’s something for everyone to enjoy during winter in Korea.
Here’s 10 of the best Korean winter foods that I’m sure you’ll love.
1: Kimchi-Jjigae (김치 찌개) Kimchi Stew
Kimchi-jjigae, one of my favourite Korean dishes, is great for lunch or dinner and really fills you up. Any jjigae (stew) is going to be perfect to recover from the cold, but kimchi-jjigae is the best.
This meal is a delightful mix of cabbage kimchi, tofu, cellophane noodles, pork, and vegetables, with a dish of rice and obligatory side dishes, often served in a large bowl for two or more people.
When the kimchi is sautéed, it becomes softer and releases all its flavour into the stew, creating a hearty broth. The best way to eat it is to put a bit of rice on your spoon, dip it in the broth, then top it with the other ingredients.
2: Dolsot Bibimbap (돌솥 비빔밥) Stone Bowl Mixed Rice
This is the winter version of one of Korea’s most popular and famous foods – bibimbap. Whereas regular bibimbap is served cold, this hot stone bowl version really mixes things up.
Instead of a fried egg, a raw egg is dropped on top and mixed together with the rice, vegetables, sauces, etc. This creates a kind of egg fried rice that is both delicious and healthy.
Not only that, the rice sticks to the edge of the bowl and at the end you can peel it off for a crispy snack. Alternatively, add water to the empty bowl to make a healthy rice drink.
3: Dak-Galbi (닭갈비) Spicy Stir Fried Chicken
Dak-galbi is a Korean winter food best shared with others. This dish combines marinated chicken with a bunch of vegetables, rice cake (tteok 떡 ), chili paste sauce, and other spices. You can also add in noodles and cheese.
These ingredients are chucked in a large pan and stir-fried at your table. Be careful, though, this is also a very messy dish and you’ll want to wear an apron as you can easily splatter yourself with the sauce! Dak-galbi is a meal to experience, not just eat
4: Kal-Guksu (칼국수) Knife-Cut Noodle Soup
Literally meaning knife-cut noodles, kal-guksu has chunky noodles because they are cut by hand and not spun. This gives the noodles a rich taste and make them the star of the dish. Extra ingredients might include shellfish, ground beef, chicken, some vegetables, or cilantro.
The best kal-guksu restaurants will be busy in winter, and that’s a good sign that they serve a great dish. A perfect Korean winter food, this hot, steaming broth can refresh any weary traveller.
5: Budae-Jjigae (부대찌개) Army Stew
Budae-jjigae is spicy, delicious, warming and stuffed with things that aren’t very healthy, which makes it a great Korean winter food. Packed full of meat, noodles, rice cakes, and lots of other rather unhealthy foods, it’ll leave you feeling satisfied and full.
This unique fusion of American and Korean cuisine has created a marriage of Western products (SPAM and baked beans) and traditional Korean ingredients that is a great tonic to the winter blues.
6: Juk (죽) Korean Rice Porridge
If you’re feeling unwell or suffering from the coldness of winter, then this is the Korean winter food for you! I always eat this porridge when I’m feeling sick.
Korean rice porridge is full of healthy ingredients in a range of varieties, from plain old rice porridge to chicken, red bean, shrimp, and even abalone porridge.
If you’re feeling down or want a healthy winter treat, be sure to head to one of the many juk restaurants throughout Korea and you’ll certainly feel better.
7: Samgyeopsal (삼겹살) Korean BBQ
I’ll admit, this is not only one of the best Korean winter foods, it’s also one of the best Korean foods ever. If you’re visiting Korea during winter, you will find many people enjoying a meal of smoky Korean BBQ.
Slices of samyeopsal (pork belly) fry on the blazing fires in front of you, whilst you patiently wait to pick them out, wrap them up with other ingredients, and stuff them in your mouth. A Korean BBQ is another ‘meal experience’ that is best enjoyed with friends or family.
8: Dakbal (닭발) Super Spicy Chicken Feet
This Korean winter food might give some people a bit of culture shock. Dakbal, literally meaning ‘chicken foot’, is exactly what you’d imagine it is. It’s probably the spiciest of all the Korean winter foods on this list, too, so be careful!
This is a very popular dish with Koreans who want to go out, drink lots of beer and enjoy super spicy food. Dakbal restaurants are lively and filled with Koreans having a good time. If you feel brave enough, try it and see what the big deal is about.
9: Mandu-Guk (만두국) Dumpling Soup
A good mandu-guk will be packed full of freshly wrapped dumplings filled with kimchi, meat, or seafood. Also squeezed in with the dumplings, you might find tteok 떡 (rice cakes), sliced vegetables, ground meat, or even an egg.
Koreans start the New Year with a bowl of mandu-guk, cementing its claim as a Korean winter food. If you’re in Korea at the time, be sure to try it.
10: Jjamppong (짬뽕) Spicy Noodle Seafood Soup
Although jjamppong is referred to as a ‘Chinese’ dish in Korea, it is undeniably a part of Korea’s arsenal of culinary defence against winter cold and a perfect dish for a winter’s day in Korea.
Packed full of seafood (or sometimes pork) and thick noodles in a steaming, spicy soup, jjamppong goes straight to your stomach and radiates heat all through your body. It’s filling, satisfying, and will leave you feeling stuffed.
Hungry For More Korean Food?
If this article has whetted your appetite for more delicious Korean dishes, here are a few other guides to the best of Korean cuisine that’ll make your mouth water for sure.
Of course, knowing what you want to eat is only half the battle, but how do you order food in Korea? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered with 60 essential phrases for eating out in Korea.
Try Amazing Korean Winter Foods In Seoul
Not sure where to eat Korean winter dishes in Seoul? Why not book a meal at Myeongdong-jeong in Myeongdong, and try an authentic Korean meal with a range of mouth-watering meals and dozens of banchan (Korean side dishes).
Travelling To Korea This Winter?
Do you dream of seeing the royal palaces of Seoul covered in snow whilst munching on a hotteok? Want to experience freezing cold temperatures (and below) with a bowl of tteok-bokki? Not sure where to visit and what to do during this frosty season?
Then check out some of my other articles about travelling to Korea during winter for the best places to see snow and winter activities to enjoy.
One of my favourite places to visit during winter is Jeju Island, a semi-tropical wonder of the world that has snow, fresh oranges, and palm trees all in one place. You can get lots of unique Korean winter foods from the markets in Jeju City and Seogwipo.
Share Your Thoughts
If you enjoyed reading this article, or if you have any thoughts about it that you want to share, please feel free to leave a message in the comments below. I’d love to hear your feedback about this article and the subject.
If you want some recommendations about other great Korean winter foods, then you can also ask in the Korea Travel Advice group on Facebook.
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