The Ultimate Guide to Korean Desserts

by Kiki Wong
The Ultimate Guide to Korean Desserts

Korean cuisine is truly one of the world's most delicious and exotic global flavors. The kick of spice, umami, and assortment of pickled vegetables makes the perfect bite that creates a party on your palette. However, one of the best parts of Korean food is their desserts. So, what exactly is a Korean dessert? We did the homework for you and put together the Ultimate Guide to Korean Desserts.

Patbingsu

If you're fan of light, delicious, and not overly sweet desserts, you're in for a treat. Patbingsu is a delicious shaved ice treat topped with an assortment of fresh fruits. The shaved ice is also sweetened and flavored with condensed milk, a healthy sweetening alternative than most. 

But the most significant ingredient of all is the delicious red bean filling, the bingsu. After it is topped with you favorite fruits, you can either put whipped cream or sometimes various ice cream flavors. This ooey gooey treat is a refreshing and delicious dessert experience, which can be found at many fast food joints in Korea.

Bungeoppang

Interestingly enough, Bungeo-ppang directly translates to "carp bread". Now, don't get discourage thinking this dessert is up to some fishy business. It's actually a fish-shaped pastry stuffed with delicious sweet red bean paste and is one of the most common winter desserts in Korea. 

If you're a fan of street food, this is one of the best street food delicacies you can get in Korea. It is often made with a waffle iron shaped like a fish and filled with bean paste, pastry cream, pizza toppings, chocolate, and even more.

Ppopgi

If you've ever traveled to Korea, you'll probably know about the vast varieties of street food. However, one of the most delicious and traditional snacks are the Ppopgi, or honeycomb toffee candies.

These tasty confectionaries are made directly on the streets from brown sugar, corn syrup, and baking soda. In order to create the crispy texture, the baking soda reacts and creates air bubbles in the viscus environment, creating a fun little lattice and a tasty texture. It's a sweet treat you absolutely must try!

Dasik

One of the most visually appealing and simultaneously delicious confectionaries are Dasik. These are bite-sized "hangwa" that are usually eaten during tea time. It can be made by kneading grain, four, pollen, or edible seeds with honey, they pushing them into decorative molds. These usually have many colors, creating a visually artistic plate of delicious desserts.

Songpyeon

If you're looking for a tasty treat that you surely can't just eat one of, these are the desserts for you. Songpyeon are tteok made from rice cakes and traditionally eaten during the Korean Thanksgiving, Chuseok. 

These cute half-moon shaped rice cakes have semi-sweet fillings such as sesame seeds, honey, red bean paste, chestnut paste, and other tasty fillings. The little treats are then steamed over a layer of pine needs, which give it an irresistible earthy flavor. This is why the name Songpyeon since the word "Song" means "pine tree".

Hotteok

For those of you who enjoy Korean cuisine, you'll know that there are all kinds of pancakes that Koreans love to make. One of the most tasty styles of pancakes is the Hotteok. These yummy flat deserts are made from wheat flour, water, milk, sugar and yeast. The dough is rested for several hours, allowing for it to aerate and rise, giving it that perfect fluffy texture.

It's then placed on a greased griddle and cooked off like a pancake. Afterwards, a small hole or cute is opened. Then, the pancakes are filled with yummy sweet mixtures of brown sugar, honey, chopped peanuts, and cinnamon.

You can find these tasty pancakes on the street or made and placed in plastic pre-packaged goods.

Yaksik

At first glance, this dish doesn't particularly look like a desert. However, don't let it's seemingly savory appearance fool you. Yaksip or Yakbap is a sweet Korean dish made from steaming glutinous rice and mixing it with chestnuts, raisons, pin nuts, and jujubes. It get's it sweet flavor from the tasty morsels and also from adding honey, brown sugar, sesame oil, and soy sauce.

This dish is actually consider medicinal food or medicinal rice in Korean culture. Generally, Koreans will eat this on Jeonwol Daeboreum, a lunar calendar Korean holiday. Also, they will eat it on special occasions like weddings.

Yeot

Yeot is another tasty version of Hangwa. This tasty dessert comes in either liquid or solid form. It's made from steamed rice, glutinous rice, glutinous sorghum corn, sweet potatoes, or mixed grains. These ingredients are lightly fermented then boiled for a long time.

The long boiling time allows the mixture to harden and solidify when chilled. It's an interesting treat you definitely want to try when traveling to Korea.

Matang

If you've ever been to a Chinese/Korean restaurant and ordered jjajang myeon or jjampong, you probably have gotten this delicious dessert with your meal. Matang is sweet potatoes candied in a irresistible caramel sauce topped with sesame seeds. The crunchy texture on the outside and the soft sweet potato inside is truly a remarkable flavor sensation in your mouth.

Matang isn't just potatoes. Sometimes, you can get banana matang, which is a Chinese dessert adapted by the Koreans. It's the best way to finish off a nice, warm bowl of noodles

Chapssaltteok

If you thought this was mochi, well, you certainly are not wrong. Chapssal stands for "glutinous rice" and tteok is "rice cake", which is essential a mochi just the Korean version. This chewy and flavorful dough is prepared in all different fun ways, making this dessert top of the charts when it comes to deliciousness.

Sometimes, you can find it filled with sweet red beans paste. Other times, the dough is flattened out and topped with beans, pine nuts, and other tasty toppings. No matter which way it's prepared, it's always consistently a popular and tasty treat.

Baesuk

One of the most refreshing desserts after a heavy meal is Baesuk. Essentially, it is a traditional Korean fruit punch made with bae (no not your GF or BF), Korean pear.

The Korean pears are poached by simmering with sliced ginger and honey. Then the gingers are discarded and the punch is chilled. The punch is then garnished with three sliced peppercorns on top.

The punch itself has quite a distinct flavor, almost as if it was a spiced pear tea. It's an excellent digestive and the perfect way to wind down a good meal.

Mandu-gwa

If you've ever had a potsticker, then you've basically had the savory sister of these delicious morsels. Mandu gwa is a Korean sweet dumpling filled with ingredients such as red beans and minced jujubes. It's then deep-fried to get a crispy outer crunch with the perfect soft center.

The potsticker pastry is made from wheat flour and has a decent starchiness. It's prepared by sifting wheat flour and kneading with sesame oil, honey, ginger, and clear refined rice wine. A small amount is taken then flattened. The actual consistiency is relatively thick since you don't want the dumpling to spill the filling out. 

After the dumpling is fried, it's soaked in a sweet marinated rice syrup.

Hwangnam-ppang

Hwangnam bread is named after the origin city Hwangnam-dong but is also commonly called Gyeongju bread. This soft and sweet bread is filled with a sweet red bean paste. This dessert has become largely popular across Korea and is still only produced in the city of Gyeongju.

In order to make Gyeongju Bread, the dough is made from a mixture of eggs and wheat flower. The filling itself actually consist of over 70% of the pastry. Sometimes, a chrysanthemum is printed on the top for decoration.

Hoppang

There are few things greater that a tasty steamed bun on a cold winter's day. That's why Hoppang is such a widely popular dessert in Korea for it's convenient on-the-go shape and sweet flavor.

These steamed buns are filled with yummy sweet red bean paste and are sold at convenience stores across the country. It's a fast and easy way for families to eat steamed bread. It's similar to a Chinese pork bun, but with red beans in the center.

Kkul-tarae

Even though they don't particularly look like cakes at first glance, these are most certainly a delicious dessert cake you must try. The dough is a harder consistency made from honey-maltose mixture. It's kneaded, twisted, and pulled into 16,384 skeins of silky threads, resembling a ball of fine yarn.

Later, candied nuts, chocolate, or other fillings are wrapped in. It's a mildly sweet dessert that was eaten in the royal court, which is why this dessert is also known as the Korean court cake.

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