Korean street food! There’s nothing like a warm, sweet pancake from K-town to restore your strength during fun-filled evenings of soju-fueled ballads at karaoke (okay maybe that’s just me). Even on a quieter occasion, as we in NYC finally got some decent snow, hotteok (pronounced “hoe dduk”) are the perfect choice hot off the griddle. They’re basically a yeasted pancake stuffed with brown sugar, nuts and cinnamon. In other words, they’re an act of bravery, a solid force of triumph against the cold, making you forget to shiver for blocks at a time as you devour them. These oozing, decadent treats are only lightly fried on the outside so that in each bite you’ll crunch through a crispy golden crust, then through a chewy dough, and finally into a sweet, melted brown sugar and chopped almond-filled gooey center.
I work very close to Koreatown and over the years have come to really love everything about it. I like climbing 3 staircases of a shady building only to enter a nondescript doorway, behind which lies a really crowded and sometimes trendy restaurant serving anything from Korean fried chicken (the best!) to traditional meals and hot soups like Soondubu-jjigae 순두부찌개, my hands-down absolute winter fave. Years ago I discovered a little market where I could find all of the ingredients I’d need to make some of my favorites and when winter comes around, I inevitably start to crave Korean food. It feels like a deprivation not to indulge that craving on the crowded streets of Koreatown and short of that, in my own kitchen. This week, I’m opting for both. Make these. They’re unique and delicious and will definitely be a recurring theme in my kitchen on the weekends.
Stay warm and enjoy!
HOTTEOK 호떡 - KOREAN SUGAR PANCAKES
For the Dough
- 2 cups of all purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons of yeast
- 1 cup of warm water
- 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
For the Filling
- 1/2 cup of brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons of any nuts, chopped
- 1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon
For the Dough:
Mix water, yeast, sugar, salt and oil together until dissolved. Add in the flour and mix with a spatula just until incorporated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a towel, and let it sit at room temperature for about an hour or until the dough has doubled in size. While you wait for your dough to rise, make the filling.
When the dough has risen, punch it down using your hands or a spatula and let it rest again for another 20 minutes.
For the Filling:
Mix the sugar, chopped nuts and cinnamon together in a bowl. Set aside.
Note: If your brown sugar has fossilized like mine, there’s a simple solution. Put it in the microwave for 25 to 30 seconds covered with a wet paper towel. Don’t get over-zealous with the timing, as it will eventually melt into a puddle (lesson learned). Sometimes less is more.
Pour the sticky dough onto a floured surface and knead for a while with well floured hands until the dough comes together.
Roll into a ball and cut in half and then cut each half into four smaller pieces, so you’ll end up with 8 pieces of dough.
Again with floured hands take each ball of dough and pat it flat with your hand and fill the middle with a heaping spoonful of the sugar mixture.
Slightly push with the back of a spoon so the sugar sits nicely in the dough.
Fold each end up and pinch slightly together so it seals shut.
In a well oiled cast iron skillet/griddle (or any pan if you don’t have one) pour in a little vegetable oil so there is a thin coating and heat on medium flame.
Put the ball of dough pinched side down and cook for about 30 seconds until browned.
Flip over and carefully push the ball down into a flat pancake with the back of your spatula and cook for another minute. If it seems like you can’t flatten the ball anymore, then don’t force it – you might have put in too much filling and the sugar will just burst out.
Flip again and cover with a lid and cook for a minute until the sugar is nice and melted.
Keep repeating the cooking steps until all the dough-balls are cooked. Stack them in a plate and serve right away.