The golden rule of street food for foreign visitors to any country is simply “Follow The Crowd.” If locals are lining up, you can be confident that you’ve stumbled upon something delicious. Walking the outer perimeter of Namdaemun Market, we knew we were in for a treat when we happened upon this line:
Standing at the back of the line, our context clues were rather limited. A large red sign clearly advertised a price of 1000 Won, the USD equivalent of 88 cents. Savory, fried aromas wafted toward us as folks walked by happily holding folded golden brown circles of what looked like… fried dough?
The circles looked like large fritters, or perhaps large servings of Native American fry bread. After being carefully lifted from sizzling oil, they were brushed with what appeared to be a sweet soy glaze flavored with apples, lemons, dates, and onion. Watching people enjoy their snacks, it became apparent that the fried treats were stuffed with some sort of filling. I saw vegetables and… were those noodles?
Why yes! But… bread stuffed with noodles? It didn’t sound all that wonderful to my American palate. Wow, was I happy to be wrong, wrong, wrong. This treat, which I later learned is called “Yachae Hotteok” (and translates approximately as “vegetable pancake”) is – hands down – the best food I sampled in Seoul, South Korea.
Clear, chewy, flavorful noodles were tucked inside the warm shell along with thin strips of carrot, green onion, and other fresh vegetables. No wonder the locals were smiling. These treats were fantastic!
If you’d like to try your hand at preparing Yachae Hotteok at home, I’ve found a few great links for you. Maangchi, a famous Korean cook, has a recipe that looks very approachable. The Smart Local offers another variety which looks fun.
The world is small – have big fun!