Many people now know about ddeokbokki, kimbap, and odeng, but bun-sik (분식, Korean street foods) might be less familiar. Sometimes called school food, it also includes dishes like sundae (순대, blood sausage) and twigim (튀김, fried food). Here’s your guide to what to expect and what to eat for bun-sik!
Bun-sik is often sold in little stands at the side of the road, especially in areas with lots of students, or right outside of subway stations. It’s available all year round, and is relatively cheap. Bun means flour and sik means food. This is because traditionally it involved dishes made from flour. However, these days it includes many different Korean snack & street food. Though most Korean cuisine has rice as a major component, bun-sik is unique in that it does not.
Various bun-sik foods
The most famous one is probably ddeokbokki, 떡볶이, or spicy rice cakes. The long pieces shaped like cylinders are cooked up in spicy gochujang (고추장, hot pepper sauce). It is a little spicy, so be ready to have a drink to go along with it! You’ll probably be given a skewer to eat it instead of a fork or chopsticks.
The next one is Odeng (오뎅) also called eomok (어묵). It’s a long fish cake on a stick. Eomok is cooked in a tasty and salty broth made of green onions and radish. A ladle is usually available to serve the broth as a beverage to drink along with your fish cake. This is especially great when it’s cold out in the winter.
Sundae (순대) is the rich and delicious black sausage. It’s usually cut fresh from a much longer one. You can dip it into the ddeokbokki sauce or salt to add flavor. It is made with pig intestines and clear glass noodles, but has a relatively mild flavor.
Kimbap (김밥) are fresh rolls of rice, sliced egg, and ham, carrot, and sliced pickled radish inside. All the ingredients are wrapped in seaweed before being cut into bite size pieces. Kimbap comes in many flavors with the basic kind being common for bun-sik.
Twigim (튀김, fried food) is the final common dish in bun-sik. It consists of assorted fried foods, especially vegetables, squid, and shrimp. Small kimbap rolls as well as mandu (만두, dumplings) can also be fried.
Korean street foods allow you to try many new flavors at once. Other than the dishes mentioned here, there are others that you might come across as well, like ramyeon noodles (라면), juipo (쥐포, dried fish), or hoddeok (호떡, Korean donuts). Because it’s cheap and available, definitely eat it is a snack while traveling in Korea.
Be sure to check out Myeongdong in Seoul for a great place to enjoy street food!