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What Is Hotteok?

By Rebecca Cartwright
Updated May 16, 2024
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Hotteok, pronounced hoeduck, is the name of a Korean pancake with a filling of brown sugar, cinnamon, and diced peanuts. This is a popular street food and winter snack. The pancakes are eaten hot, as the filling melts by cooking into a nut-filled sweet syrup. Hotteok are about the size of a doughnut and are sold by the piece at street stalls and food courts throughout South Korea. They are not usually made from scratch, but mixes are widely available at grocery stores within Korea and at Korean food stores worldwide.

Traditionally hotteok are fried in oil on a grill or in a skillet. The amount of oil used can vary greatly but many believe the best are made with enough oil that they are almost deep-fried. Still, health concerns have prompted the sale of hotteok fried in much smaller quantities of oil than earlier versions. There are also special molds in which the individual pieces can be cooked over gas heat without frying. Texture and depth vary from thick and puffy to fairly thin.

A crisp outside with a tender but slightly chewy interior is the ideal for the bread part of a cooked hotteok. Those that are considered most authentic are made with wheat flour mixed with glutinous rice flour, sometimes called sweet rice flour. This mixture gives the pancake a tender, slightly fragile texture that cannot be duplicated with wheat flour alone.

Glutinous rice flour makes a dough that is sticky and very hard to handle. Successful recipes for making hotteok at home call for variations in the wheat flour to rice flour ratio. One suggestion calls for equal parts, while another is three parts wheat to two parts rice. It is considered a simple dough, as milk, yeast, a small amount of sugar, and salt complete the list of ingredients. The dough is either kneaded or mixed vigorously, then must rise once or twice before the pancakes are cooked.

Small pieces of dough are slightly flattened then formed into a rough disk with a spoonful of filling inside. The filling usually works best if the peanuts are finely diced or ground. Once on the griddle surface the pancake can be pressed down with a spatula to make it thinner and larger. Hotteok should typically be served as soon after cooking as possible. The sugar and nut filling is liquid and very hot, so care must be taken in handling and eating the treats.

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