Today let’s try to cook the humble Hotteok (호떡)! Before my first trip to Seoul I asked my Korean friend to recommend to me popular street food to eat. She told me that since I was arriving in Autumn I should try these filled pancakes called Hotteok.
Now I LOVE anything made with dough and if it it’s filled with something sweet then I’m all for it! Sure enough I was stopping at every Hotteok stall that I passed by. The very first piece I ate was after an especially tiring day of sightseeing. I was so cold my nose felt like falling off, I needed something warm. As we were walking along just outside the exit of Hongdae station I saw a cute grandma selling hotteok. It wasn’t even a stall but a really small pushcart with a blue roof. She was flipping hotteoks with nimble wrist movements on the hot greased griddle, and I was drawn to the smell. I bought 3 for KRW 1,000 each and finished them all before we even arrived at our hostel – one of my sweet tooth’s proudest moments. The feeling of the warm cup of hotteok warming your fingers and then your tummy on a cold night – it’s so comforting. It was the start of a beautiful sweet hotteok love affair.
From then on, I ate a wide variety of hotteoks from the traditional hotteok filled with cinnamon and sugar, or the one with honey and nuts and even the one with vegetables at Samcheongdong Hotteok (삼청동호떡). It was funny how we even wandered there. We were queueing for the famous chicken skewers at Saet Byeol Dang (샛별당) when we heard a loud shout behind us. It turns out the guy was advertising for people to enter the small alley towards Samcheongdong Hotteok. I didn’t really see the need though as there was quite a line there as well. I also tried the bubble hotteok when I was in Seoul the last time, the main difference is that the bubble hotteok is baked first and is like a thin shell. Although it seems like a healthier version since it is not fried, I felt the original hotteok was more filling.
As with every experience I wanted to recreate it and was so happy to find that there are premixed boxed versions available. The advantage for one is that I can make it in my convenience as long as it is before the expiration date. Another advantage of the premix version for me is that since I am not a baker and neither do I cook regularly I won’t be wasting ingredients since I have all that I need in one box. I picked up Q1’s Sweet Pumpkin Hotteok Mix at the Lotte Supermarket since it was new to me. I tried the original flavour by Baeksul before and it was sooo good. I wanted to try something different this time. Well, I guess I have rambled enough – now to the cooking!
As with the Baeksul brand, the Q1 Sweet Pumpkin Hotteok box has three packets inside. One for the dough which is the biggest packet, the filling in a smaller one and the Jenico instant yeast in the smallest packet.
The filling is made up of cinnamon, sugar and nuts. So if you have a nut allergy, I don’t think this is for you, unless you can make your own filling of cinnamon and sugar or honey. Set aside the filling in a bowl for later. For this recipe, you will just need to prepare 200ml of warm water, can you believe how fuss free the ingredients are? You can do this on a rainy afternoon and have it as a snack.
I first dissolved the yeast into the warm water then added it to the dough. I used a wooden spatula to mix everything together. You can also sieve the dough first to make sure there are no clumps but since I am pretty confident with my mixing skills I skipped that step.
After sweating it out for five minutes, you can leave the dough to rise making sure that you cover it with a tea towel or cling wrap. Or if you’re like me and you can’t wait you can proceed to the next step. I did however tried to wait for ten minutes – that was my limit. I’ve read some would let the dough rise for two hours (!). I guess if you want a fluffy hotteok you can let it rise for a bit longer. But if you want to bite into a dense hotteok you can go on ahead and add the filling.
Before you handle the dough make sure you rub cooking oil (or flour if you have it on hand) on your hands and on the tray or plate you’ll be using for the finished dough balls. Divide the big lump of dough into balls, I made eight before but since I wanted to experiment with a denser hotteok I just made six.
Take one ball and flatten it on the palm of your hand and add a little bit of filling in the centre. Now don’t get too overboard with the filling as you want to be able to pinch and fold the dough over the filling to make cute balls. It won’t be cute once the filling starts to leak when you’re cooking.
Before you start frying these babies, coat your spatula with oil to prevent the hotteok from sticking. Depending on how big you want your hotteok to be and how big your pan is, you can place around two or three in one go. Preheat your pan under low heat and lightly oil it.
You want to cook them with the sealed side down. Press the balls gently to flatten them, if you have enough dough to filling ratio the ball will expand more without the dough tearing and the filling leaking. Give each side 1-2 minutes before flipping it over, but usually I go by the color of the hotteok. Once both sides are a golden brown take them off the heat.
Time to eat! Aren’t they just gorgeous? I could taste a hint of the pumpkin, but it wasn’t overpowering. Please trust me when I say they were so warm and filling and for a moment I was transported back to that cold, autumn day. The air filled with the scent of honey and cinnamon and my fingers cradled the warmth of freshly made hotteok in Hongdae.
Next time I want to try the Green Tea flavour! Although I’m sure that some people might be able to create hotteok from scratch but I am definitely not one of those people. You can check out the lovely Maangchi’s recipe here or the recipe here from My Korean Kitchen. For those who want to purchase the mix, Amazon (affiliate link) has the Q1 Black Rice and Honey flavour here and the Baeksul Original Flavour here.