Looking for a quick snack with a history? Bunsik, or Korean snacks, may be the perfect place for you. They are popular spots for young students who like to get a quick bite after school. Bunsik refers to cheap Korean food sold at bunsikjib (분식집), which means “food made from flour.” Other foods like ramen or gimbap are also sold and known for being served in big portions for cheap prices.
The history of this term goes back to the 1960s in a time where rice was sparse. Asians tend to focus on rice as an essential food item, but when the scarcity hit, foods with flour were promoted by the government for about 15 years. There are many bunsik stands in the streets of Korea that have no seats – you stand to eat! Need a quick bite from shopping or walking around the streets? There are many places serving bunsik and many items on the menu to try!
- Rabokki 라볶기
When you mix ramen with tteokbokki, it turns into rabokki. Long cylindrical rice cakes are made with a sweet and spicy sauce known as gochujang or red pepper paste. Ramen noodles are added in and the dish is typically served hot. Other ingredients such as boiled eggs, scallions, and ham are tossed in as well. Additionally, rabokki can usually be requested to be more sweet or spicy and toppers like cheese can be added. This food is perfect for those who like some spice!
- Twigim 튀김
Twigim refers to deep-fried foods that are cooked with flour batter on top. These usually include potatoes, dumplings, and vegetables that are fried and can be paired with spicy tteokbokki or soy sauce. Other foods that can be dipped in batter are seafood, gimbap, and shrimp. Fried twigim contrasts well with spicy tteokboki. Twigim has a great variety of types and flavors to try.
- Sundae and Liver 순대
Sundae, also known as blood sausage, come from animals such as cows or pigs. Made from steaming the intestines of animals and filled with other ingredients, sundae can be commonly paired with liver, known as gan, and served with dipping salt. This dates back to the Goryeo dynasty when wild boars were eaten. After Korean War caused meat prices to go up, the tradition was revived. There is also sundaeguk, a soup filled with sundae. Sundae can be for those who are open to trying new foods!
- Jwipo and Dried Squid 쥐포/오징어
Jwipo is a type of jerky made of filefish that are dried and sweetly seasoned into a pressed flat piece. Commonly, it is burned on an open fire until it is crisp and slightly burnt. Typically, people will also enjoy dried squid that is cut into long thin pieces. Dried squid can be seasoned with different flavors from sweet to spicy and are also sold in convenience stores. This combination is normally eaten alongside a drink such as beer with friends. If you like to eat beef jerky and love fish, jwipo is the best combination!
- Hoppang 호빵
Hoppang is steamed bread that is filled with smooth and sweet red bean paste. Also, another item that can be found in convenience stores, hoppang can come in many varieties from the color of its bun to the fillings insides. Hoppang can come in flavors such as pizza, gochugang, tteok, vegetable, or kimchi. Popular times that hoppang can be sold are usually during the wintertime as it is nice to combat the cold weather. Hoppang is recommended for anyone who has a sweet tooth to those with a taste to those wanting strong flavors!
While eating out at restaurants can be costly, bunsik snacks are good for those with a budget and an empty stomach. When people want to spend time with friends and wind down after school, many grab bunsik food. Most cost less than 5 dollars and come in sharing sizes. If you’re ever traveling the streets of Korea, make sure to try bunsik for affordable food! What food here appeals to you the most? Something sweet, spicy, or flavorful?
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Written by Monica Park