Bungeoppang, fish bread.
Bungeoppang (붕어빵) stalls are a common sight on the wintertime streets of Seoul. They’re usually plastic sheeting and tarpaulin affairs, jury-rigged to keep out the biting wind and snow. And they serve bungeoppang, literally fish bread, in reality they’re fish shaped pancakes filled with sweet red bean paste. Some stalls sell different fillings like cream, imitation of course, but in this case it pays to stick to the original. They’re made in a fish shaped mold, built like a sandwich – batter, red beans then more batter – before the fish-shaped lid is put on and more heat applied. The best versions have light dough with crisp edges and plentiful sweet pat (팥, red bean), a combination that keeps your hand diving into the paper bag until the last one is gone. The worst and half-cooked faded dreams of fish. Against all odds, the best are even good cold. Some think that they’re even better eaten cold. These baked fish have even spawned a range of fish-shaped waffle ice cream sandwiches, complete with a red bean layer. The bungeoppang of summer, for when the real deal vanishes from the streets.
It would be remiss to write about these treats and not mention some of the other shapes available. Yes, this concept isn’t confined to fish, but stretches to … shit. Ddongppang (똥빵) are just like Bungeoppang, but are cooked in cartoon poo shapes. Yep, that’s a thing in Korea. Regardless of presentation, these treats are a memorable and lovely taste of winter.
Available from street stalls throughout Seoul during the cooler months, October – March. From 1,000 – 2,000 won for 3 fish.