I absolutely love pancakes; it is a rare occasion to come across a type of pancake that I don’t like, whether they are American pancakes, Swedish pancakes, and pannkakstårta. But, hotteok really hold a special place in my heart. The outside is crispy, yet there is still something a bit chewy about them. They are filled with brown sugar, cinnamon, and other sweet ingredients. But before we go to the recipe, let me briefly tell you a bit about hotteok.
Hotteok is a type of Korean pancake, and it is a very common street mood during winter months in South Korea. It is said that they had originated during the 19th century, and were first made by Chinese merchants. The word 떡 means rice cake, but the meaning of 호 will have to move away from Korean. The syllable block 호 in this word comes from a Chinese word meaning barbarian. Therefore these hotteok, in a sense, are barbarian rice cakes.
They are quite cheap, costing only around 1000 원 ($0.88, 0.75€). Just imagine being outside on a freezing day, when in the distance you can smell some form of sweet pastry. You follow your nose, eventually making your way to the food stand. It’s there you can see the hotteok. You decide to buy one, and before you even take a bite out of it, you can feel the heat coming off of it. You blow on it to try to cool it down slightly, and then finally you take the bite. Your mouth is first greeted by this not overly sweet, yet yeasty dough that reminds you of a doughnut. Before your brain can even register the doughnut like taste, a second wave of flavor rushes through your body. You taste the sweet, melted brown sugar mixed with cinnamon, and your body instantly begins to warm up. These are the moments that cause venturing out in the winter to be worthwhile.
The best part about these, in my opinion, are how easy they are to make. And the outcome is delicious! So, now that you are tempted, here is the recipe for hotteok.
For the dough:
1.25 cups (around 150g) all purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1 tsp granulated white sugar
1 tsp instant dry yeast
0.5 cup (125 mL) of warm milk
For the filling:
0.25 cup dark brown sugar
Pinch of cinnamon
2 tbsp of ground peanuts (any other nut should work here)
- Mix the flour, salt, sugar, yeast, and milk together in a bowl. Be sure the ingredients all become incorporated into the dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature until the dough doubles in size (about 60-80 minutes).
- When the dough has risen, punch the dough to deflate it. Recover with plastic wrap and let it sit for 30 minutes.
- While the dough is sitting for the second time, mix together the brown sugar, cinnamon, and ground peanuts.
- After the 30 minutes are up, grease up your hands with a little bit of oil to prevent the dough from sticking to you as you work with it.
- Divide the dough into six, equal sized balls.
- Take a ball of dough, and flatten it out in your hand. Add 1 tbsp of the brown sugar mix to the center of the flattened dough. Shape the dough around the filling, being sure to press the dough together at the corners in order to seal the filling in.
- Heat up a small amount of cooking oil in a skillet over medium heat. Be sure you wait until the oil has completely heated at this temperature before adding the dough.
- Add the dough balls to the skillet (be sure to leave enough space for them to be pressed; you may need to work in small batches!) and let them cook for 30 seconds.
- Flip the dough balls over and then use a press (or anything you can find to use as a press) to press the dough down flat. Let the hotteok cook on this side for two minutes, or until golden brown.
- Flip the hotteok over and cook it on the other side for two minutes, or until golden brown.
- Transfer the pancake onto a plate, into a cup, in between two pieces of cardboard, or however you choose to serve it. Be careful, as the sugary center will be much warmer than the rest of the hotteok!
- Ground nuts are used because it increases the viscosity of the filling, meaning the filling won’t leak out! If you are allergic to nuts, sunflower seeds are also commonly used. You can replace the nuts with some honey too.
- You do not need to use milk in this recipe. It is also commonly made with water, although you may need to slightly adjust the measurements. Almond milk and other vegan milks probably can be used too, but the measurements may be slightly off.
- Nowadays, there are many types of hotteok. Some are filled with honey, some are filled with chocolate, and others are even savory or made with green tea powder. This recipe is a more traditional way of serving hotteok, but you can definitely modify it in many ways if desired.