Hotteok, or Korean sweet pancake, is filled with gooey cinnamon sugar and nuts, accompanied with a light crisp and a pleasant chewiness. It's one of Korea's most popular street snacks and desserts.
I'm not sure if this is a healthy habit or not...but Kyong and I have adopt the habit of watching street food videos during our free time. All the foods look incredible and super tempting. Worst of all, even if we watched those videos on a full stomach, we'd end up asking each other, "Are you feeling snacky?" Lol. Definitely not good for our waistlines. 😆
Well, one of the street snacks that always gets me is hotteok. We're both mesmerized by how fast the street vendor ajummas are able to filling their dough and how amazing the hotteoks look when the syrup oozes out. I also love that chewiness in the pancake, almost reminds me of mochi. And you know what's Kyong's favorite way to eat hotteok? With a generous serving of our bourbon pecan ice cream! It's a pretty awesome combo.
What is hotteok?
Hotteok or hoeddeok (호떡), sometimes known as Korean sweet pancake, is a South Korean fry dough pastry filled with cinnamon sugar syrup and nuts. You'd often and most commonly find hotteok at Korean streetfood scenes. The texture of the hotteok pastry is light and airy but with a surprising chewy texture that complements the sweet syrup and nuts. Because this sweet treat is pan-fried, the outside of the hotteok has the perfect crispness with a really nice chew if you eat it hot. Of course, these Korean sweet pancakes are best enjoyed while they're piping hot, but do be very careful of that extremely hot sugar syrup on the inside!
Types of hotteok (Korean sweet pancake)
Besides the classic hotteok where it's a fried dough filled with just sugar and nuts, these days you can find these sweet pancakes with many more varieties of different fillings and even add-ons for the exterior of the dough! Although the hotteok filling is still mostly limited to a cinnamon sugar base, you'll now find hotteoks filled with an assorted variety of nuts and seeds from pumpkin to sesame.
Brown sugar vs white granulated sugar
After testing several rounds of hotteok and watching way too many hours of Korean streetfood videos on YouTube, we have concluded that brown sugar, whether dark or light, works the best as hotteok fillings.
At first, we thought that the cinnamon sugar base got to be regular granulated sugar because the sugar never looked clumpy when the ajummas packed it into their hotteok dough. So we tried white granulated sugar. The result? The sugar did not completely dissolve and turn go a nice syrup. Flavor-wise, the granulated sugar also tasted a little lacking and less rich.
On the other hand, when we tested the hotteoks with brown sugar, the sugar was completely melted and formed a really nice, gooey syrup. And that's what you want! Not to mention, the flavor of the syrup was much richer and tasted really good with both the nuts and the pancake dough itself. So, white granulated sugar or brown sugar? We would definitely pick the brown sugar every time!
Do you need a hotteok presser
Technically, no. You do not need a hotteok press to make hotteok. However, if you're a kitchen gadget collector like we are, then yes! Practicality-wise, hotteok press does make a more even hotteok because the base is flat and you can apply pressure evenly because the handle is directly above, whereas a spatula is offset. But even without a hottoek press, you can still make some pretty amazing hotteoks for sure!
Dry instant yeast vs. active dry yeast
If you've been following along with our other recipes that call for yeast, you probably know that I like to use active dry yeast because we always have that on hand. Well for our hotteok recipe, we decided to try instant yeast and I loved it! For this recipe at least.
The major difference between instant yeast and active dry yeast is how you use it. Instant yeast can be directly added to the flour mixture while active dry yeast requires to be dissolved in a warm liquid first. So if you only have active dry yeast at home, feel free to substitute the instant yeast. Just make sure to dissolve it in the warm water first!
Use disposable gloves!
Because this hotteok recipe uses a much wetter dough than regular bread dough, it is much harder to handle. It requires faster, constant movement to prevent the dough from sticking and also generous greasing on gloved hands. We've also tried using well-oiled bare hands to make our hotteoks. It worked, but with a lot of sticking, which made shaping really difficult. So we highly recommend wearing pair of disposable gloves and still rubbing a nice layer of oil as well, to ensure none or minimal sticking occurs. We really liked using powder-free vinyl gloves, but any disposable gloves works.
How to fill hottoek
One of the main secrets to a good hotteok is getting some filling for every bite of the sweet pancake dough. To achieve that, it is crucial that you pack the dough with enough of the cinnamon sugar filling.
For our recipe, one roughly 1.5 to 2 inch size dough ball, we packed close to 1.5 to 2 Tablespoon of filling. How did we pack so much filling into such a small dough? Well, the trick is the packing part.
- Pinch off a sixth of the dough and roughly shape it into a ball. Try not to work the dough too much as it will make it too stiff and hard to work with.
- Flatten the dough ball in your palm to about a ¼ inch thick.
- Spoon about 1.5 to 2 Tablespoons of filling onto the center of the dough. Make sure to press the filling into the dough to keep it from spilling out.
- Pinch the edges of the dough together to seal the dough.
Flatten a piece of dough. Pack it with nut filling. Pinch the dough closed over the filling. Make sure all the holes are closed. Pan-fry seam side down in oil.
Alternative dough for making hotteok
Because our hottoek recipe is much higher in hydration than the typical bread dough recipe, we understand that it may be a little difficult to handle if you're just starting out. So below we have made an alternative hotteok dough recipe that is a little lower in hydration for easier handling of the dough. However, if you are up to the challenge, we highly recommend using our regular hottoek recipe as it yields a better, airier texture.
Lower hydration hottoek dough recipe:
- 1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour, spooned & leveled (about 150g)
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- ½ kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon instant yeast
- ½ cup warm water (about 120mL)
Combined all of the ingredients until no dry flour is visible. Cover and let it proof in a warm area until doubled, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Follow the recipe for the remaining directions.
If you're looking for more Korean street snack recipes, you may like these:
- Sweet potato mochi pancakes/ hotteok
- Tteokbokki (Korean spicy rice cake stir-fry)
- Vegetarian bao buns (Korean style)
- Korean cream cheese garlic bread
Cook with love!
Hotteok: Korean Sweet Pancake
For the dough:
- In a medium mixing bowl, combined all of the ingredients and mix until no more dry flour is visible. Cover and let it proof in a warm area until doubled, about 40 minutes to 1 hour.*This dough will be very wet, so feel free to use a spatula if you prefer.*
- While waiting for the dough to double, combined all of the ingredients for the filling in a wide bowl and give it a mix. Set aside until needed.*It's up to you what nuts you prefer, we normally use walnuts but sometimes we like to use assorted nuts. Also, I highly recommend a wider bowl because it'll be less messy when filling the dough.*
- Once the dough has doubled, knead it back to it's original size and let it rest for 10-20 minutes.
- In a medium pan, add enough vegetable oil to generously cover the entire bottom of the pan. Heat on medium low heat.
- With gloved hands, grease the gloves with some vegetable oil. Pinch off ⅙ of the dough (roughly a 1½ to 2 inch ball). Flatten the dough in your palm to about ¼ inch thick. Pack about 1½ to 2 tablespoon of filling into the center of the dough, then pinch together the edges to seal the dough.*Refer to the post for picture reference of the dough filling process! Also, highly highly recommend wearing gloves and greasing those gloves. They will tremendously help with the wet dough.*
- Place the dough, seam side down into the oil and flatten immediately with a well greased hotteok press or spatula. Let the hottoek fry until golden brown on one side, then flip to let the other side fry until golden as well, about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove the hotteok from the oil and let it cool for a few minutes. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.*If the hotteok browns too quickly, lower the heat slightly.*
- Enjoy the hotteok while hot, but be careful of the extremely hot brown sugar syrup on the inside!