Archive for the ‘Hotteok’ Category

Homemade hotteok

February 4, 2010

There are a lot of hotteok recipes online.  Based on my blog stats, there are even more people looking for hotteok recipes.  It surprised me that a street food, a simple fried pancake stuffed with brown sugar and nuts, is so sought after.  And then I remembered what it tastes like.

Diane and I agreed when we started working on the cookbook that we would focus on home cooking.  There were people who really wanted us to do a cookbook of Korean royal palace-style food, but we wanted to focus on the kind of food we like best: hearty, simple, and homey.

So where does something like hotteok (pronounced “hoe dduk”) fit in?  It’s not something Koreans generally make at home, though premade mixes are popular.  For all the food trends that come and go in Korea, hotteok has staying power.  The dough might change—one year, corn is in, another green tea—and the cooking contraptions change sometimes, too.  I’ve had hotteok that are practically deep-fried and hotteok that are airy, light shells around a thin film of sugar.  (They don’t taste as good as the greasy ones.)  But you can find it wherever young people are hanging out on the streets, even in the dead of winter, at rest stops all over the country, and even in chi-chi department store basement food courts.

I think this is why people outside of Korea are searching for the recipe online.  It might not be something you eat at home, but it’s still intensely familiar.  When it’s gone, there is a big hole in your life.  Like peanut butter for American expats in Europe, or Vegemite for Australians.

Having tried a couple of different recipes online, though, I have to say most of them are not quite right.  The biggest challenge is getting the perfect chewiness right.  It may be hard for you to find glutinous rice flour (also called sweet rice flour), but if the recipe you’re looking at only uses regular all-purpose wheat flour, you are going to wonder how these hockey pucks are supposed to resemble hotteok.  Gluten develops through kneading, and that can make an all-flour dough chewy to a certain extent, the way certain pizza doughs are chewy.  But hotteok aren’t tough-chewy, they’re tender-chewy, like Japanese mochi, Korean tteok, and other foods made with, you guessed it, glutinous rice flour.

The problem, though, is a recipe with a lot of glutinous rice flour is going to be ridiculously sticky.  I found one recipe that made a really wet, spongy dough, very similar to the dough from the mixes, and this one certainly resulted in a chewier pancake, but the dough was so sticky, my hands looked like those of a monster from the deep.  I had to practically sling the dough, misshapen as it was, into the pan, since it wasn’t going to separate from me otherwise.

So the following recipe is my two cents in the discussion of how to make good hotteok at home.  The ratio of glutinous rice flour to wheat flour is almost 1:1, but I keep the liquids low enough that the dough is still manipulable.  As lazy as I am, I’ve found it’s worth it to finely chop the nuts in the filling.  Otherwise, they take up too much space and not enough brown sugar ends up in the pancake.  It’s not as super-crispy as the almost deep-fried hotteok I saw last winter in Seoul.  Instead, it’s chewy with a crust that’s still a bit like bread, and the look is more traditional, a golden-brown center ringed with a paler crust.  Knowing me, I’ll probably tinker with it some more before it gets published in the cookbook, but if you get a chance to try it, I’d love to hear what you think.


Sticky rice pancakes filled with brown sugar and nuts


Makes 8 small pancakes.

  • ¼ cup lukewarm water
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon active-dry yeast
  • 1 cup flour
  • ¾ cup glutinous rice flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • filling:
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts or peanuts

Stir together the lukewarm water, one tablespoon of sugar, and active-dry yeast in a small bowl until the sugar and yeast dissolve.  Let it sit for 10 minutes, during which time it will start to bubble and foam.

Combine the flour, glutinous rice flour, salt and remaining tablespoon of sugar in a large bowl.  Add the yeast-sugar mixture and the milk.

Using your hands, bring the dough together into a sticky ball.  Knead it a couple of times, for about two or three minutes.  The dough will be sticky, but it should still come off your hands and stay together.  Cover with plastic and place in a warm spot for 3 hours.  (I put mine on top of my heater.)

After 3 hours, the dough will have doubled in size.  It will look pretty puffy.  When you knead the dough, the dough will almost puncture and let out some air, but remain relatively airy and spongy.  Knead the dough a couple times until it becomes more elastic, but keep in mind that it will never become a smooth, elastic ball of dough.

Combine the sugar, cinnamon, and walnuts in a small bowl.

Heat the oil in a large pan on medium-high heat.  Make sure your pan is hot before you start — your pancake should sizzle when it hits the pan or it won’t form a good crisp crust.  Oil your hands and pinch off a piece of dough, about 2-3 tablespoons.  Knead it into a smooth ball and then stretch it out into a loose circle, creating a depression in the middle.  Fill the depression with the sugar mixture, about a tablespoon worth.  (Ignore how large the walnut pieces are in this photo — this was an earlier draft experiment.)  Stretch and seal the dough around the sugar mixture and flatten it between the palms of your hands.

Drop the flattened ball of dough into the pan.  The oil should be hot enough to sizzle.  Smooth some oil on your spatula and press down on the ball of dough, flattening it further.  Continue making balls of dough until the pan has 3 or 4 pancakes in it. Be careful not to crowd the pan.

Fry the pancakes until golden-brown, about 3 minutes on each side.  Remove from the pan and let them drain on a paper towels or a wire rack.  Serve warm.


Better than Betty Crocker

June 17, 2009


The ten years I spent living in Seoul, Korea, were not the happiest years of my life.  That was probably because I was an awkward, dorky teenager.  But since I graduated from high school, I’ve enjoyed going home to visit my parents every year.  This is probably because with every passing year, I realize how much I miss Seoul street food.  My absolute favorite is 호떡, hotteok, a chewy pancake filled with brown sugar and nuts.  The best is when it gets fried on a griddle in plenty of oil, but I’ll even eat the “well-being” ones that are made in special, non-oiled molds.


So imagine how I felt when I discovered you can buy hotteok mix in Korean grocery stores!

(My friends, Lina and Ookie, who first told me about this wondrous product, filled half a suitcase with these mixes coming back from Seoul, only to find out when they got back stateside that they were sold in nearly every Korean grocery store here.)

It’s really shockingly easy.  The mix contains three envelopes.  The biggest is filled with some sort of flour batter, with a small one of yeast and another small one of brown sugar and nuts.

You take the yeast packet and mix it with about a cup of water.  Add the flour batter and mix it thoroughly.  Knead the dough a couple of times.  Then cover and let it sit for 30 minutes so the yeast can work its magic.

The instructions on this packet said something about puncturing the dough to let the gas out, but I just pushed the dough around a little bit and moved on.  The dough is really sticky, so you have to oil your hands generously.  Take a bit of dough from the bowl, maybe about 3-4 tablespoons worth, and roll it up into a ball.  Placing the ball in one hand and make a depression in it with your finger, big enough to put in 2-3 spoonfuls of brown sugar.  Then pinch the dough around the brown sugar filling.

In the meantime, you should be heating oil in a pan.  Be generous with the oil and pour in at least half an inch; you really want to fry them like donuts.  Drop the ball of dough into the pan and flatten it with a spatula.  Even if your ball of dough is completely stuck to your hand and it looks like a misshapen blob when you drop it in, you can more or less shape it into a round disk when it’s in the pan.

Sticky rice-corn hotteok in Seoul.

Sticky rice-corn hotteok in Seoul.

In Korea, the street vendors use a big, flat metal disk to press the dough down flat.  In a NY kitchen with only a plastic spatula, we weren’t able to make them look quite like they do in the streets of Seoul.  They were much puffier, but they were also crispier all around.  Because the texture was a little different, they didn’t taste exactly like traditional hotteok, but really, there’s nothing to complain about when you’re eating a piece of fried dough with melted sugar in the middle.

There were quite a few types of hotteok mix at Han Ah Reum on 32nd St. when I was last there, including some that have green tea or sticky rice flour in them, keeping right up with what’s trendy in hotteok culture in Korea.  But I imagine they all must work more or less the same way, so if you’re curious and don’t read Korean, it might be worth just following my instructions.

I’m normally a horrible snob about mixes.  But I can’t turn up my nose at a product that’s given me a taste of something I miss so much.  And the fact that the mix is so easy is tempting me to try it from scratch.  How proud would I be to include a hotteok recipe in the cookbook!

Just for you, Lina!

December 16, 2007

As promised.

But the better 호떡, hodduk, makers were in Kangnam, who used some newfangled metal mold, so that the outside was perfectly crisp without being greasy, the inside chewy and sweet.

(For those of you who have never tried this, it’s a ball of dough filled with brown sugar and sometimes nuts. The sugar melts when the dough is flattened and fried and you end up with one of the best street food snacks in the world.)