September 23 marks the first day of fall. Here in Korea, that means we’re wearing jeans instead of shorts, turning off our A/Cs… and of course, looking for new foods to warm our stomachs! If patbingsoo is the must-have cool-down food for hot summers, then the cold-weather counterpart is most definitely warm and syrupy hotteok. Now that the weather is quickly cooling down in Seoul, the street carts are beginning to sell this hot, sweet pancake oozing with cinnamon and brown sugar syrup. It’s the most delicious antidote for cold hands and noses… but also slightly dangerous! Ha Jung Woo recently appeared on “Healing Camp” and described eating hotteok during a movie shoot. He said it was the most difficult thing to eat because the hot syrup was like HOT LAVA burning in his mouth! Haha… don’t I know it! I think I’ve burned my tongue and even lips a few times eating this… yet I keep going back to it.
The chewy, warm dough with the fried crispness on the outside, paired with the wonderfully sweet syrup with bits of nuttiness, make hotteok one of my favorite Korean desserts since I was a child. I’m no longer a kid, but now my husband LOVES hotteok. He will eat hotteok hot or cold, for breakfast, as a snack, as a dessert. I think he’d even eat it for lunch, if I let him. Just now, he ate three hotteok in one sitting and was mumbling to himself that his breakfast menu for tomorrow is now decided!
So here is a short history lesson. Hotteok is widely believed to date back as early as 1882, when Chinese government sent soldiers and merchants to Korea to help them fight the war with Japan. The story goes that some of these merchants started to make and sell these pancakes on the street. Yeast dough pancakes with savory ingredients such as chives have always been a staple of Chinese cuisine, but in Korea, this sweet variation with sugar filling gained the most popularity. It’s stuck around for almost one hundred years and is now considered a classic, but there are some modern variations. One of the newest styles of hotteok contains pumpkin and sunflower seeds and is called ssiatt hotteok. Another popular type contains cream cheese filling! (Koreans love their cream cheese!)
The recipe for hotteok is quite simple and straightforward in terms of ingredients, so try making some at home this weekend! See my hotteok recipe at the Kimchimari blog! Have a happy fall!