Underrated Korean street food


korean street food
Image adapted from: @haeil.jo and @kuna_lin

Gwangjang Market is very popular amongst tourists these days, thanks to Netflix’s Street Food feature. Waiting in line to get your hands on some local favourite Korean street food at this market is unavoidable and if you’re someone who gets hangry, we suggest eschewing Gwangjang Market in favour of something less mainstream and less crowded. Here are 10 undiscovered Korean street food places serving mouthwatering dishes to satisfy your taste buds. 


1. Handmade knife-cut noodles in Namdaemun market’s kalguksu alley


Kalguksu Alley
Image credit: @saroskybird

Kalguksu Alley is a local go-to for cheap and tasty kalguksu (handmade knife-cut noodles). The narrow alley has stalls lining both sides and some jostling is required as you make your way to an empty counter seat. 

Handmade Kalguksu
Image credit: @chopsticktravel

You can expect every stall here to sell a good bowl of piping hot kalguksu, with their set meals, pricing, and quality pretty much standardised across board. So there’s no need to wait for a specific stall for seats to free up – just head towards any ahjumma who’s calling out to you. 

Kalguksu set meal
Image credit: @kevinmak33

It’s hard to believe that with KRW7,500 (~USD5.40), you can get a set meal that comes with a bowl of kalguksu, boribap (barley rice bibimbap), sides such as spicy cold noodles, kimchi, and a bowl of soup. 

Kalguksu
Image adapted from: @wandergirleats

The star of the show is definitely the kalguksu. It may look just like a regular bowl of noodles, but taste-wise, it packs a punch. The noodles are hand-rolled and hand-cut, then cooked till al dente. It’s topped with a generous amount of fried tofu and seaweed flakes that soak up all the flavourful broth. 

Note: Locals come here for a quick but satisfying meal, so don’t overstay your welcome. As a rule of thumb, most people don’t hog a seat for more than 20 minutes. 

Address: 60-3 Namchang-dong, Jung District, Seoul
Opening hours: 6AM-9PM, Daily
How to get there: Take exit 5 of Hoehyeon Station (Subway Line 5) and enter Namdaemun Market through gate no.6. Then take a left turn and you’ll come across a big blue sign above a plastic makeshift door. 


2. Chunghakdong Pancake – pancake speciality shop


Chunghakdong Pancake (청학동 부침개) is a stall that sells Korean jeon (pancake) and fritters at the local Gongdeok Market’s jeon alley. 

Chunghakdong Pancake
Image adapted from: @xx_o63o

Operating 24/7, this stall is popular with locals for the variety of snacks they can get to pair with alcohol. 

Some of the must-try classics include chinese cabbage pancakes (KRW3,000, ~USD2.50) and chives pancakes (KRW4,000, ~USD3.30). Aside from pancakes, this stall also offers fritters like fried snow crab meat (KRW800, ~USD0.70) and cheese sticks (KRW500, ~USD0.40).

 Tip: If you’re dining in, order a Gongdeok makgeolli – a traditional rice wine only for sale in the area – to go with these sides.

Address: 23, Mallijae-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul, Republic of Korea
Opening hours: 12AM-12PM, Daily
Telephone: 02-706-0603


3. Push cart food outside Hongik University Station Exit 9


Ask any local to recommend a cheap and convenient street food option at night in Hongdae and they’ll point you towards one of the many push cart stalls outside exit 9 of Hongik University Station.

Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo
Image credit: Viu

Even if you’ve never been to South Korea, you’ve probably seen these push carts featured in popular K-dramas like Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo. These carts usually only operate at night and sell anything from tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes) and eomuk (fishcakes), to sundae (blood sausages)

Korean fishcake
Image adapted from: @thanyaboat

The eomuk is a definite must-try. For KRW1,000-KRW1,500 (~USD0.80-USD1.20), you can get a stick of fishcake and an unlimited refill of soup. Yes, you’ve heard us right – as long as you’ve paid for a stick of fishcake, you can refill the paper cup provided with soup as many times as you want. 

That being said, it’s good to restrain yourself from refilling too many times.      

How to get there: Take a subway train to Hongik University Station (on subway line no.2). Then head towards exit 9 and you’ll be greeted by a street filled with these push carts. 


4. Try local drinking snacks at Jongno 3-ga Pojangmacha Street


Jongno 3-ga Pojangmacha Street
Image credit: @paris_shin

If you’re looking for a place that serves authentic street food to go along with some alcohol, head to Jongno 3-ga Pojangmacha Street. Here, you’ll get to experience the local drinking culture inside one of the red tents, also known as pojangmacha. These tents are usually frequented by locals when they go for i-cha (second round of drinks). 

Stir-fried Chicken Gizzard
Image credit: @hygge_12

Try the stir-fried chicken gizzard and stir-fried cartilage, two unique Korean drinking snacks popular with locals. It comes with a large amount of garlic, onions, spring onions and carrots, all of which helps to mask the gaminess.

Stone Sea Squirt
Image credit: @haeil.jo

Adventurous souls who are up for a challenge should try the raw stone sea squirt. The taste is similar to that of sea urchin and we recommend dipping it into hot sauce. 

Address: 57-3 Nakwon-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea


5. Mister Fried – non-franchised fried chicken stall


Chimaek, a combination of Korean fried chicken and maekju (beer), is something you cannot leave Korea without having. Mister Fried (미스터 후라이드), located along Yeonnam-dong picnic area, is one of the few chicken stalls in Seoul that doesn’t belong to a franchised brand such as Kyochon or BHC Chicken. 

Mister Fried Chicken
Image credit: @7m1s0

Despite being a smaller fried chicken joint, the variety of options available here don’t lose out to the bigger businesses. There’s 4 flavours to choose from – original, sweet & a little spicy, soy sauce, and hot sauce.

Besides ordering a whole chicken (KRW13,000, ~USD10.70 for original flavour, (KRW14,000, ~USD11.50 for the other flavours), you can also go for a smaller portion of boneless chicken bites. It’s available in 5 sizes: small cup KRW3,000 (~USD2.50), medium cup KRW5,000 (~USD4.10), small box KRW8,000 (~USD6.60), medium box KRW12,000 (~USD9.90), large box KRW16,000 (~USD13.20). Each portion is accompanied by tater tots

Read more about other non-franchised Korean fried chicken stalls here.

Address: 230 Donggyo-ro, Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Opening hours: 12.30PM-2AM, Daily
Telephone: 02-333-8058
Website


6. Kimbap Heaven – GOT7’s favourite 24/7 gimbap joint


Kimbap Heaven
Image credit: @kgtwschool

Kimbap Heaven (김밥천국) is a joint frequented by GOT7 members while they were still trainees. And it’s not without reason – although gimbap (seaweed rice roll) can be found at street food carts, the brick-and-mortar Kimbap Heaven is open 24/7 and offers an array of dishes like tteokbokki, eomuk, mandu (dumplings) and ramen as well.

You can never go wrong with a good ol’ classic gimbap (KRW2,500, ~USD2). But if you would like to switch things up a little, the store also offers plenty of other flavours such as kimchi and cheese gimbaps (KRW3,000, ~USD2.50 each)

Address: 114-3 Toegye-ro, Chungmuro 1(il)-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea (Myeongdong head store)
Opening hours: 12AM-12PM, Daily
Telephone: 02-771-9565
Website


7. Changsindong Maeun Jokbal – visited by TWICE’s Momo and BtoB’s Sungjae


Changsindong Maeun Jokbal
Image credit: @_seoah_mum

Locals and even celebrities like Twice’s Momo and BtoB’s Sungjae all flock to Changsindong Maeun Jokbal (창신동 매운 족발) for their pig trotters

Grilled Spicy Jokbal
Image credit:
MANGOPLATE

The regulars swear by its spicy grilled pig trotters, which is first doused in a generous amount of their secret spicy sauce before going onto the grill to lock in all the flavours (KRW28,000, ~USD23 for large portion; KRW25,000, ~USD20.60 for medium portion). The layer of skin is chewy but once you bite through that, the tenderness of the meat comes through. 

Grilled Spicy Jokbal
Image credit: SikSin

If you’re dining in, you can add on a steamed egg or a bowl of rice balls to complete your meal (KRW2,000, ~USD1.65 each)

Address: 23 Jong-ro 51-gil, Changsin 1(il)-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Opening hours: 10.30AM-12AM, Daily. Closed on 1st and 3rd Mon of the month, and 2nd and 4th Sun of the month
Telephone: 02-3675-9689


Mangwon Traditional Market


 8. Basak Macha – cheap and affordable katsu


Basak Macha
Image credit: MANGOPLATE

At first glance, you might think Basak Macha (바삭 거리는 수제까스집) is a cafe inside a traditional market. But just like how we should never judge a book by its cover, this stall doesn’t actually brew a cup of joe. Instead, it serves really crunchy and juicy katsu (fried cutlet).  

Basak Macha Katsu
Image credit:
MANGOPLATE

There are not many places in Seoul that sell katsu as a quick snack, and even if they do, it’s hard to beat the variety of flavours and price point that Basak Macha offers

A pork katsu here only costs KRW2,000 (~USD1.65) while a quattro katsu – filled with cheddar, mozzarella, gouda and gorgonzola cheese – is only KRW3,500 (~USD2.90). Another unexpected flavour is the mac & cheese pulled pork katsu (KRW3,900, ~USD3.20). It’s filled with a huge dollop of mac & cheese that oozes out with every single bite. 

Address: 412-52, Mangwon-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul
Opening hours: 11AM-8PM, Daily
Telephone: 02-336-4486


9.  Kyusi Gangjeong Chicken – boneless fried chicken


Fried chicken stalls are found all across Seoul, but Kyusi Gangjeong Chicken (큐스 닭강정 치킨) takes things up a notch by coming up with unique sauces to complement its boneless fried chicken. 

Kyusi Gangjeong Chicken
Image credit: SikSin

You have to try the cheese mustard flavour. The slight tanginess from the mustard helps cut through the grease while the cheese adds an additional flavour profile to the chicken. (KRW3,000, ~USD2.50 for small cup; KRW4,000, ~USD3.30 for large cup)

Address: 27 Mangwon-ro 8-gil, Mangwon-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Opening hours: 10AM-10PM, Daily
Telephone: 02-3143-5577


10. Mangwon handmade croquette – cheap food on the go


Mangwon Handmade Croquette
Image credit: @SikSin

Famous among locals, Mangwon Handmade Croquette (망원 수제 고로케) is a humble stall that sells croquettes different from the ones you get in Japan. Here, the batter is not only crunchy but has a fluffy bread-like consistency when fried. On top of that, they are also stuffed with local favourites like kimchi and japchae (stir-fried glass noodles) for just KRW500 (~USD0.40) per piece.

Twisted Doughnuts
Image credit: @SikSin

If you’re up for something sweet, try their twisted doughnut sticks. It’s deep-fried till golden brown and then coated with powdered sugar (KRW1,000, ~USD0.80 for 3 pieces).

Address: 80 Mangwon-ro, Mangwon-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Opening hours: Mon – Sat 9AM-9PM, Closed on Sun
Telephone: 02-336-7412


Cheap and less known Korean street food


Korean street food can be found all across Seoul, but many of them are hidden from the sights of tourists. We’ve tried to uncover a few of these places so that you can have more options the next time you want to have some authentic and cheap Korean street food. 

Here are other articles you can check out before heading to Seoul: