Story has it that when the Qing dynasty dispatched armies to Korea in 1882, 40 merchants arrived with the Chinese soldiers. When the Qing dynasty fell, the merchants elected to stay in Korea, opened a restaurant and started selling dumplings and hotteok. Chinese dumplings being savory, these merchants adapted the food they sold to suit the Koreans’ penchant for sweet food. Hotteok with sweet filling was born and has since become a popular street food typically eaten in winter.
What exactly is hotteok (or hoddeok as it is sometimes spelled)? It is a pancake. Unlike the pourable Western pancake batter, hotteok is made with bread dough. Yes, with yeast rather than baking powder. The dough is mixed, allowed to rise, kneaded, allowed to rise a second time then formed into small balls. The balls are flattened, filled with brown sugar and nuts, gathered and sealed, then pan fried. Hotteok is absolutely delicious. It reminds me of piaya. But, unlike piaya, hotteok must be served hot while the bread is crisp outside and the sugar filling is syrupy.
Based on a recipe from Maangchi.
For a visual guide on making bread dough, see the basic bread recipe. Although the hoddeok bread recipe is a bit different, the general rules about rising and the techniques for kneading are pretty much the same as any other bread.
Hoddeok (Hotteok): Korean Sweet Pancakes
For the bread dough:
- 2 teaspoons yeast
- 2 teaspons white sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- vegetable cooking oil for frying
For the filling:
- nuts any kind (I used pili)
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- Pour a cup of lukewarm water into a mixing bowl. Add the yeast, sugar, salt and oil. Stir. Dump in the flour. Mix just until the dough comes together. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to rise for an hour or until double in volume.
- Sprinkle flour on the work surface. Dump the dough on the floured area. Knead for about two minutes. Put back in the bowl and leave to rise while you prepare the filling.
- In an oil-free pan, toast the nuts until glistening with their own oil. Cool then chop — finely or coarsely, that is up to you.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.
- Stir the chopped nuts into the sugar mixture.
- Take the dough out of the bowl and form into a log. Cut into eight to 10 equal pieces.
- Take a piece of dough, flatten, fill with about two heaping teaspoonfuls of the nut-sugar mixture, gather the edges then pinch to seal.
- Repeat for the rest of the dough and filling.
- Heat half a teaspoonful of oil in a pan. Lower a piece of filled dough. Cook over medium heat for about 30 seconds. Flip. Drizzle in another half a teaspoonful of oil.
- Using the back of a spatula, flatten the dough to about half an inch thick.
- Cover the pan and cook the pancake for a minute.
- Uncover, flip and cook for another half a minute.
- Repeat until all the pancakes are cooked. Note that, if you have a large frying pan, you can cook more than one pancake at a time.
- That’s how a cooked hoddeok (hotteok) looks.
- And there’s the cross section to show how the sugar has melted.
- Remember to serve the hoddeok (hotteok) as soon as they are done. That’s when they are at their very best.