A Sweet Symphony on Korean Streets
Hotteok is one of South Korea’s signature street foods, and its origins are historical and deeply intertwined with traditional Korean food culture.
Hotteok originated in what is now Central Asia and the Arab world, and is believed to have been introduced to Korea by Qing Dynasty merchants who came to the country during the Imo Rebellion in the 1880s.
It refers to a rice cake that is made by kneading flour or glutinous rice flour, adding sugar and other ingredients, and baking it in a round shape. The name is a combination of the Chinese word ‘ho’ and the Korean word ‘mochi’, where ‘ho’ refers to the people living in the Oriental and Western regions (Central Asia, Arabs). Ho-tteok came to Korea via the Silk Road from Central Asia and China, and many say it was brought to Korea by Qing Dynasty merchants who came to Korea during the Imo Rebellion in the late 1880s.
When the Imo Rebellion broke out in 1882, the Qing Dynasty sent more than 3,000 troops to Korea, including dozens of Qing merchants. After the Qing Dynasty collapsed, the remaining merchants who did not return to the mainland began selling food such as dumplings and hotteok to make a living. Gradually, they changed the recipe to suit Korean tastes, adding ingredients such as jochung, honey, and brown sugar to the hotteok. These Korean-style hotteok were first sold in Jemulpo, Incheon, and later spread to urban areas such as around the Chinese Embassy in Myeongdong, Seoul, and Jongno Street, where overseas Koreans were concentrated.
Meanwhile, evacuees fleeing to Busan during the Korean War began to eat seeds of various grains inside the hotteok, which is said to be the origin of the current seed hotteok. In recent years, there have been more and more varieties of hotteok, including not only sugar-filled hotteok, but also green tea hotteok made with green tea powder, corn hotteok made with corn flour, and vegetable hotteok made with vegetables instead of sugar.
These origins and traditions continue to this day, and they’ve become a beloved snack for all generations. They’re widely enjoyed by children, adults, and seniors alike, and they’re especially popular as a warming snack during the cold Korean winter.
While hotteok is a snack that can be enjoyed year-round, the warmth of a hotteok served on the street, especially during the cold winter months, is a memorable taste and warming experience for many people. These hotteok have a special place in Korean street food thanks to their sweet and crunchy flavor.
Hotteok Recipe: Crafting Korean Sweet Pancakes
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons glutinous rice flour
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup lukewarm water
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- Filling options: brown sugar, honey, chopped nuts, cinnamon
- Activate the Yeast:
- In a small bowl, combine lukewarm water and active dry yeast. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes until it becomes frothy.
- Prepare the Batter:
- In a large mixing bowl, combine all-purpose flour, glutinous rice flour, sugar, and salt. Pour in the yeast mixture, add milk, and mix well until a smooth batter forms.
- Let it Rise:
- Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and let the batter rise in a warm place for 1-2 hours or until it doubles in size.
- Add Vegetable Oil:
- Stir in vegetable oil to the risen batter and mix thoroughly.
- Prepare the Filling:
- In a separate bowl, mix brown sugar, honey, chopped nuts, or cinnamon for the filling.
- Cooking Hotteok:
- Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat. Add a little oil to coat the pan.
- Spoon a portion of the batter onto the pan, spreading it thinly. Add a generous amount of the filling in the center.
- Fold and Cook:
- Carefully fold the edges of the pancake over the filling, creating a round shape. Press it down gently with a spatula.
- Cook until both sides are golden brown and crispy.
- Serve Warm:
- Repeat the process for the remaining batter. Serve hotteok warm, allowing the sweet filling to ooze out with each bite.
- Enjoy these delectable Korean sweet pancakes as a delightful snack or dessert, perfect for warming up cold winter days.
Now you have a simple yet delicious hotteok recipe to recreate this beloved Korean street food in the comfort of your kitchen!