While the thought of experiencing winter in Korea brings to mind dreamy things like snow-laden streets and a crowd in their fashionable layers, the reality is that the season can get harsh. The temperature in South Korea usually drops to the negative scale from December to January, which travelers from tropical countries may find to be quite of an adjustment. Certainly, bundling up helps, but as you spend more time outdoors, you’d eventually feel some numbing sensation in different parts of your body and you’d probably end up saying (or singing), “the cold bothers me in every way”.
But fret not; there are many ways you can beat the cold! This includes wearing your thermal wear (first of many layers), hitting the warm Korean baths in a jjimjilbang, and staying in a heated space. But when the cold unbearably gets to your insides, head on over to a nearby street cart, restaurant, or market and try the following Korean food that will help you keep warm in the winter:
Jjigae is essentially Korean stew that’s served boiling hot. It commonly has meat, vegetables, or seafood, which means flavors will burst inside your mouth! There are many variants of jjigae in Korea that you can try. The most popular ones include sundubu jjigae (spicy tofu soup), altang jjigae (pollock roe), ge jjigae (crab), and kimchi jjigae. If you’re feeling cold and hungry in the evening, order a hearty bowl of Korean stew, which is usually good for 2-3 people.
When you’re shopping in Myeongdong or strolling Han River Park and are in need of a quick fill, look around and search for a food cart that sells Korean fish cakes or eomuk (also referred to as odaeng). Eomuk is a processed seafood snack that’s made out of fish, vegetables, and starch. This always pairs well with a cup of warm salty soup, which is usually given by food vendors for free!
Nothing but a tiny bun to keep you warm during winter! If you’re familiar with dou sha bao in China or siopao in the Philippines, you’ll immediately fall in love with hoppang in Korea. Hoppang is a steamed ball of flour or rice that’s filled with either red beans, vegetables, meat, or curry. It’s always served hot, so if you’re looking for an instant snack to warm your insides, you can head on over to a market or stall to grab one.
You’ve probably heard of hotteok or Korean pancakes before as they’re very popular. But if you haven’t yet, hotteok is a ready-to-go snack that’s actually perfect for any season. These are pancakes made from mixing honey, peanuts, cinnamon, and/or brown sugar. It also comes filled with chives and other vegetables. Before getting started with your day, you can head on over to a food market to look for these warm delights. Once tried, you will never have enough!
Tteokbokki are Korean rice cakes, which are loved by many for its distinct flavor and texture. It’s perfect to snack on during the winter as they are usually hot and spicy. You can get them in food carts or restaurants like CrazyFry Ttteokbokki & Pub, which is my favorite! Just take a look at the photos of their platters:
While you can get tteokbokki in places like Hongdae and Hyehwa-dong, I really love visiting CrazyFry with my friends because it’s just an entirely different experience. I love snacking on rice cakes on the street, but having it in a pub setting is just very exciting! CrazyFry also does a good job in pairing their Korean rice cake platters with the other treats like gimmari, pork cutlet, squid, fried chicken, and more!
BONUS: Butterbeer & Other Wizard Drinks
Bet you didn’t expect this last one! If you’re a Potterhead who’s looking for nice cafes to visit during winter in Korea, you can check out 943 King’s Cross in Hongdae. They serve Wizard Beer (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), which is pretty much the Butterbeer that the Hogwarts community (whio are of age, of course!) love to drink during winter.
If it’s your first time to visit, I suggest getting their Wizard Set for 2 people, which comes with 1 wizard drink (chocolate or green tea), 1 alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverage of your choice (get the Wizard beer!), and dessert! The set costs ₩32,000 or $28, but you can book it below for just ₩25,600 or $23! (Happy holidays, indeed!)