[Hallyupedia] Hotteok

연합뉴스 / 2022-01-16 08:00:23
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by Ra Hwak Jin / Kim Sun Min

[ENG] A rice cake made with sugar in flour dough and fried in oil

▲ This file photo shows Hotteok. (Yonhap)



Hotteok is a popular snack that Koreans usually eat during winter, and it is a rice cake made with sugar in flour dough and fried in oil.

It becomes a shape of flat disk when you press the round dough with a hand presser. In the chewy texture, sugar melts in heat as a state of sweet syrup.

▲ This file photo shows Hotteok. (Yonhap)

Accoding to the Encyclopedia of Korean Folk Culture, when the Imo incident broke out in 1882, Qing Dynasty sent 3,000 soldiers to Joseon and merchants also crossed over to secure their commercial districts. They remained without returning home after the collapse of the Qing Dynasty, and those with money ran a Chinese restaurant while those without money ran a Hotteok restaurant. In other words, in the 1910s, many Hotteok restaurants were established in Korea.

Moreover, as the number of large construction sites increased in Korea in the 1920s, Hotteok became very popular as many Chinese workers called Kuri苦力 came over. This is because Hotteok was an easy and affordable substitute for the poor. It was said in a newspaper article in 1926 that 100 out of 900 Qing Dynasty people, who live within the jurisdiction of Seodaemun Police Station in Seoul, ran a Hotteok restaurant.

▲ This file photo shows Hotteok. (Yonhap)
Due to this background, some state that “ho” of Hotteok refers to the Qing Dynasty in terms of etymology of Hotteok. However, Encyclopedia of Korean Folk Culture argues that this is not a valid explanation.

Encyclopedia of Korean Folk Culture found the history of Hotteok from the cultivation of the Silk Road in the 2nd century B.C. Chinese silk and ceramics are introduced to the West through the Silk Road while the Western culture is also introduced to China. Hotteok was one of the foods that came in at this time as the exotic culture of the West was so popular that it was called "Wind of ho.” In other words, it is analyzed that “ho” of Hotteok does not mean the Qing Dynasty of China, but Central Asia and the Arab.

《Songnam Magazine 松南雜識》, which contains encyclopedia-like knowledge in the late Joseon Dynasty, also explains the etymology of Hotteok in this way.

In the early days, Hotteok was baked in a fire pot, unlike the current Hotteok that is fried in oil. Since the 1970s, as cooking oil has been widely distributed in Korea, the cooking method of Hotteok in Korea has changed to the way it is fried in oil today.  


▲ This file photo shows Hotteok. (Yonhap)

Currently, Hotteok is filled with vegetables, cellophane noodles, and seeds besides sugar. There are also changes in taste of dough as glutinous rice, rice powder, and green tea powder are used as well as flour. Of course, sugar is still basic for white flour dough but you can find Hotteok made of special dough and distinctive ingredients in each local market.


▲ This photo, provided by Samyang, shows "Homemade Hotteok Mix." (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)


◇ Hotteok from street vendors…to home, café, and abroad

It is typical to buy Hotteok from street vendors. Hotteok tastes the best when you eat it right after it is made like Bunggeo-bbang, and it is sold in a paper cup since it is too hot to hold it with hands. In the past, paper like cardboard was often cut into small pieces and used, but it is common to put Hotteok in paper cups these days.

Then in the 2000s, the manufacturers of sugar and flour began selling ingredients that could easily make and eat Hotteok at home with the name of "Homemade Hotteok Mix." CJ CheilJedang and Samyang launched the products one after another. The scale of the Hotteok mix market was only 370 million won in 2006, the beginning of its launch, but it grew rapidly to 3.16 billion won in 2007 and 16.5 billion won in 2009.

▲ This photo, provided by Ediya Coffee, shows Hotteok. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Coffee franchises also entered the Hotteok market. Ediya Coffee has recently sold Hotteok in stores during winter.

You can also try Hotteok abroad. In Auckland, the largest city of New Zealand, Korean immigrant Jonathan Lim drew attention by selling Hotteok, calling it a Korean pancake, since 2004.

◇BTS and Hotteok

BTS’ RM posted a picture of searching for Hotteok on the Internet with the caption “I want to eat Hotteok” on the official fan community Weverse on Dec. 15, 2020. After the post, fans enjoyed a series of Hotteok photo shots of the members, including J-Hope, who posted a picture of Hotteok. RM also posted a photo of Hotteok on his Instagram story without any caption on Jan. 11, 2022.


▲ This file photo shows Hotteok. (Yonhap)

◇ "As if you flip hotteok,” "As if there is fire at hotteok restaurant"

Since Hotteok is also very familiar to Koreans, it is used in many figurative expressions. The representative expression “As if you flip Hotteok” is used when changing the words or actions to the opposite. The expression originated from the shape of turning flat Hotteok upside down at 180 degrees. There is also a saying, "As if there is fire at Hotteok restaurant.” It refers to a very noisy and chaotic situation, especially when customers rush into the store and the owner and employees are too busy to handle.



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