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“Where are you from? What are you? What do you speak?” are some of my most frequently asked questions. I was born on the small island of Taipei, Taiwan and then my parents moved me to Texas at the age of 3. So I’m from Taiwan, I’m Taiwanese, and I’m fluent in English, Mandarin, and Taiwanese. Two years ago, I took the 23andMe test, and learned that I’m actually 97.7% Taiwanese and 1.3% Korean!
SEE ALSO: Best Asian Food in Austin
23andMe is a personal genetic service that was created to help people understand their DNA. You can see which regions around the world your ancestors come from and learn how your DNA can influence your facial features, hair, taste preferences, sleep quality, and more. The name 23andMe comes from the fact that human DNA is organized into 23 pairs of chromosomes.
I spent a week in South Korea trying all the popular Korean street food items!
1. Tteokbokki 떡볶이
Number one Korea street food you have to eat is Tteokbokki, spicy rice cakes cooked in gochujang. You can find pots bubbling away with rice cakes in a bright red sauce all over Seoul. The rice cakes are chewy and the sauce is sweet and spicy.
Another popular option you’ll find at the street stall is Tteok-Kkochi that are Korean Rice Cake skewers that are soaked in spicy sauce.
2. Fishcake – Eomuk Tang
More commonly known as Odeng in Japanese, Eomuk is the native Korean word and Tang is soup because you are also served a cup of broth with the fishcake skewer. I’ve had fishcake on a stick in Taiwan but it’s always in ball form so it was fun to eat it in this swiggle form!
3. Korean-style donuts
Freshly fried sweet or savory pastries – try not to eat all of them like I did! The sweet pastries are coated with sugar and the savory pastries are filled with different kinds of meat.
4. Stewed pork feet
Trying munching on a stewed pork foot while shopping through the market.
5. Banana milk
Korea loves banana milk and you can find these little cartons at every convenience store. There’s also strawberry, and blueberry milk but banana is the most popular that it even has its own cafe. It’s so good!
6. Kimchi-ppang 김치빵
When I walked by these kimchi pork steamed buns that had just came out of the oven, I had to get one and the first bite was heavenly. This is a popular Korean dish.
7. Live octopus
While this isn’t technically a “street food,” there were a lot of restaurants that were selling live octopus by the street food stands. Live octopus is a delicacy in Korea and it’s so fresh because Korea is right by the ocean. I was so surprised by the texture – not slimy but chewy and slightly crunchy. They put a sesame chili oil on the octopus so it’s very flavorful. I highly recommend trying live octopus in Korea if you’re not squeamish!
8. Bindaetteok – Mung bean pancake
Mung beans are grounded up and then fried for the mung bean pancakes. Also try the seafood and kimchi pancake too if you see it! This Korean scallion pancake originated from Busan.
Korean sushi with vegetables and pickles.
10. Blood sausage 순대 Sundae (Soondae)
Cow or pig’s intestines are stuffed with pigs blood and glass noodles then boiled or steamed.
11. 계란빵 (Gyeran-Ppang: Egg Bread)
Sweet, steamed tiny loaves of bread topped with an whole egg on top. Popular item for breakfast.
12. Bungeoppang 붕어빵
You’ll see these fish-shaped pastries at every food market resembling a carp with eyes, scales, and grilled. The batter is made of butter and eggs with a hidden layer of sweet red bean paste poured into fish-shaped pans that give the Bungeoppang its distinctive shape. This pastry is crispy and crunchy with a sweet interior!
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13. Hweori gamja – tornado potato
You usually always see at least one tornado potato street food stand – I’ve had them in Mexico City and Taipei but they’re still fun to eat. A single potato is cut into a swirl, fried, and then seasoned with different powders or sauces.
14. Gamja corn dog/hot dog (감자핫도그)
There’s always a corn dog stand but in Seoul, these are coated with French fries!
15. Korean grilled cheese lobster
The most expensive Korean street food goes to the grilled cheese lobster at 15,000 won ($15) a pop.
16. Korean BBQ
You know there’s going to be Korean BBQ in street food form and it tastes so good!
17. Grilled cheese
Korean are obsessed with cheese so of course there are skewers of rice cake with cheese and then grilled.
Korean dumplings stuffed with meat and vegetables, and pan-fried until crispy and juicy on the inside. Served with scallions, green onions, sesame oil, and soy sauce.
19. Fresh pomegranate juice
You’re going to need to wash all that food down and conveniently, there are food stands serving fresh juice in these portable juice pouches.
20. Baked cheese scallops
Fresh scallops (they’re pulled right out of the tank!) are covered with cheese and baked.
21. Soft serve
It’s so hot and humid in Korea during the summer so there are ice cream and soft serve machines everywhere. This sakura and black sesame soft serve was interesting and yummy!
This food stand was selling watermelons the size of apples but I’m not sure if they were just really small watermelons? They were 7000 won ($7) each so I didn’t try it.
23. KFC – Korean fried chicken
Last but not least, you have to eat KFC (not Kentucky Fried Chicken, Korean Fried Chicken!) in Korea. The street food stands do sell little containers of KFC but I wanted the experience so we went to BHC Chicken (Better & Happier Choice). We got the crispy chicken and the sauce chicken (sweet and tangy sauce), and it was so good!
SEE ALSO: 9 Spots for Best Fried Chicken in Austin
24. Hotteok: Korean Sweet Pancakes 호떡
This is a sweet dessert street snack that is filled with a sweet syrup made from cinnamon, brown sugar, and peanuts.
25. Dakgangjeong 닭강정
Very similar to Korean fried chicken but Dakgangjeong is boneless chicken cut into bite-sized pieces. Some dakgangjeong street vendors are so popular that you have to wait over an hour.
26. 김밥/마약김밥 – Mayak Gimbap
This the Korean version of the Japanese onigiri – gimbap is a seaweed wrap of rolled rice with ingredients like egg, intimation crab, carrots, and more.
27. 튀김 Deep fried food (Twigim)
I love anything fried so twigim caught my eye – it means any food items covered in batter and deep-fried. Everything from fish, squid, meat, potatoes, carrots, onions, and other veggies. Very similar to tempura.
28. Gilgeori Toast: Korean Street Toast 길거리토스트
Koreans have an obsession with toast sandwiches and I think it’s because the toast itself is so good. You have to try any of the savory and sweetened egg sandwiches made with freshly-made omelet, sweet ketchup, and scallions.
29. Roasted Sweet Potato, Chestnuts, Corn 군고구마/군밤/군옥수수
Of all the delicious Korean street food, roasted sweet potatoes, chestnuts, and corn are probably the most common.
30. Korean Sponge Candy – Dalgona 달고나
Made popular by Netflix show ‘Squid Game’, Dalgona Candy was actually a traditional street food candy that resembles honeycomb toffee candy. Dalgona is made by melting sugar with a little baking soda. Depending on the region, it is sometimes called ppopgi (뽑기).
31. Waffles/Croffles 와플/크로플
and last but not least, you’ll find many street food vendors selling piping hot waffles smothered with syrups, whipped cream, jam, and other toppings. Fold the waffle in half and eat it like a sandwich.
I always thought a genetic service would be complicated and require a blood sample but I was surprised when I received the 23andMe kit in the mail and it only required a saliva sample. I did my test in the morning before my first cup of coffee – the saliva collection tube was so easy to use! I registered my kit online, dropped it into the mail and my results came in about 6 weeks.
When I took 23andMe two years ago, I was surprised to discover that I was 1.3% Korean! I was also able to see wellness reports like Sleep Movement, Muscle Composition, Caffeine Consumption, saturated fat and weight, trait reports about sense of taste and smell, and additional ancestry report on Neanderthal ancestry.
Last month, I had my parents both take 23andMe and we discovered that the Korean ancestry comes from my mom’s side. Seeing our DNA ancestry results made us curious about the Korean heritage so we booked flights to Seoul, Korea to learn the history, culture, and of course, the food. I love traveling and traveling to a destination based on my DNA was a new and exciting experience because you feel personally connected to the culture and you want to learn more about it.
My mom and I explored Nami Island, Seoraksan National Park, Bukchon Hanok Village, tried on hanboks (traditional Korean dresses) at Gyeongbokgung Palace, spa time at the Korean spas, and ate all the local Korean food!
Eating through Seoul, Korea for 8 days – particularly Namdaemun Market (남대문시장), Myeongdong 명동, and Dongmun Market, I learned a lot about Korean cuisine. Here are the 23 Must Eat Korean Street Food In Seoul, Korea!
To order your own 23andMe kit and check out the latest promotion, go to 23andMe.com/ATasteofKoko.
This post was produced in partnership with 23andMe, but all opinions are mine.