While there may be a tteokbokki restaurant on every street, these are ones that stand out from the rest.
Spicy tteokbokki with beef brisket? Sounds unsual, but also mouthwatering. Having opened its first location in Hongdae, second at COEX Mall, and the latest opening in Myeongdong, Side Show is a new form tteokbokki joint offering a new dimension to the dish. At this restaurant, the tteokbokki is cooked at your table, and you get a choice between beef brisket and squid. The menu includes 10 different kinds of toppings and a wide variety of side dishes. As the tteokbokki boils on the induction cookers, the gochujang sauce and brisket blend to create thick broth that is rich in taste. The interior design of the space is complete with a massive collection of Marvel Heroes (the owner is a self-proclaimed animation figure nerd). Even the aprons (provided to every customer) have Marvel Heroes printed on them! Even though Side Show is located in a corner of the mall, its popularity will have you wait at least 30 minutes in line.
In the middle of the affluent Apgujeong neighborhood stands a worn and humble shop selling fresh produce, rice cakes and tupperware. On the southern end of the shop is a small family-run tteokbokki stall that’s always bustling with regulars and packed on the weekends. The stall’s popularity no doubt stems from the delicious tteokbokki, lathered in luscious red sauce that’s not too sweet and not too spicy. Other specialties include the fried dumplings and kimmari (Korean spring rolls with seaweed) that are both served with tteokbokki sauce on top.
Literally meaning “I am tteokbokki,” this fast food restaurant with a memorable name has equally memorable tteokbokki. Each serving is presented in a small frying pan (giving the dish a more elegant feel compared to the standard plastic blue plate) and comes with a large bowl of fish cake soup. Finished off with a few pieces of cut-up perilla leaves and a sprinkle of sesame seeds on top, the tteokbokki sauce is thick and spicy with just a touch of sweet. On extravagant days, you can get a hard-boiled egg for just 500 won extra or get ra-bokki (ramyun tteokbokki) for 1,500 won more. With one location near Jongno-5ga and another in Daehangno, this is the tteokbokki place to turn to when in the area.
The McDonald’s of Korean street food, Jopok Toppoki started as a food truck in 1987 and made its way up to the Hongdae tteokbokki classic that it has become now. It has two stores in the Hongdae area alone. To be perfectly honest, the food isn’t anything too special. Their success mainly comes from the great location and keeping their classic taste consistent over the years. By the way, the place has nothing to do with jopok (gangsters), so no need to get intimidated (though the owner is actually kind of scary looking)!
Sinsa locals are all familiar with Hanchu—and before a TV program named it one of Seoul’s “Top 4 Fried Chicken Spots,” it was a cozy, beloved neighborhood hof. But luckily for everyone, though tables may be a bit harder to come by, the popularity hasn’t tainted its two decades of excellent service and satisfying eats. Their sweet and spicy made-to-order ddeokbokki and their kimchi fried rice with egg on top remain as delicious today as they were years ago. The owner also has the knack of turning ordinary dishes into something more special: it was their gochu chicken (double deep-fried with chili pepper) that made them legendary. Continuing with the chili pepper theme, their spicy hanchu ddeokbokki is another hit you’ll want to try. Yes, you’ll get a little greasy—this ain’t no health joint. But isn’t that why you came here? Just be sure to wash it all down with an ice cold stein of cheap beer.
There is no better way to fill up on your daily oil intake in Seoul than with deep-fried street food snacks, or twigim. It’s everywhere: The post-war influx of food aid made flour and oil readily available in South Korea, quickly turning a holiday food into a commonplace street food. These days, lots of twigim sold in Seoul are mass-produced, but Sak was popularized for making their food in-house and fresh (yes, we never thought we’d describe twigim as fresh). Your arteries may not thank you, but your taste buds will—try the fried kimbap (seaweed rolls), fried squid balls, and our favorite, the fried stuffed peppers. You can also order a side of ddeokboggi, rice cakes (often made with flour) bathed in a sweet and spicy sauce. Tip: when ordering a plate of twigim, ask them to pour some of the ddeokboggi sauce on top for an extra kick.
This instant ddeokbokki restaurant serves up the beloved Korean snack food of soft rice cakes drenched in sweet and spicy red sauce from the second floor of the Banpo Jugong Apartment shopping center. The messages from adoring patrons that fill the walls on the stairway up speak to the age and popularity of the restaurant. It is frequented mostly by apartment residents, students from the nearby school, and adults who are unable to erase the nostalgic taste from their memory. The interior remains untouched, and a long queue forms every day at mealtimes. Apple House makes its ddeokbokki on the spot, using a recipe similar to the dishes that are served in Sindang-dong. With the addition of shredded cabbage and black bean paste, it's both sweet and spicy. Although the ddeokbokki is tasty, the true spotlight goes to a different menu: the spicy seasoned fried dumplings. Kimchi fried rice, garnished with a topping of seaweed flakes and fried egg, is another nostalgic dish that will make your mouth water.
The first thing you might notice upon walking into Gongusan is an astonishingly high number of beautiful women (Nonhyeon-dong is famous for this, for various reasons). And the second? The addictive smell of tempura, the crispy snack that first made Gongsugan popular. Rather than the usual thick, soggy fried batter found in most snack shops, Gongsugan has perfected a recipe learned from five star hotel chefs that is crispy, light and fluffy. With its growing fame, people began to queue up and phones began to ring off the hook with delivery requests. Their tteokbokki (short rice cakes cooked in red hot spicy sauce), the ultimate companion to a well fried tempura, as well as their giant gimbab (seaweed rolls of rice and fillings) are mouth-wateringly delicious. Thanks to the wild popularity of their first branch, Gongsugan now has branches opening up throughout the country.