Unlike Western pancakes, the Korean pancake hotteok is made with leavened dough. A portion of the dough is rolled flat, filled with a mixture of crushed toasted nuts and sugar, formed into a bun, fried and flattened in the pan.
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.
For my version of hotteok, the filling consists of pili nuts which I toasted in an oil-free pan and cooled before tossing in brown sugar flavored with cinnamon and nutmeg.
The bread dough, made with wheat flour and leavened with yeast, was rolled into a log, cut into ten portions to make ten pancakes. Each portion was flattened, filled with the sugar-nut mixture then the edges were gathered to seal in the filling.
Because my frying pan was small, I cooked the hotteok one by one. Hot oil was drizzled into the pan, a filled dough was laid on the hot oil, flipped then flattened. The pan was covered to create a little steam.
During cooking, the sugar in the filling melted and turned syrupy. And while the hotteok will look bloated during cooking, it flattens after the steam formed in the pocket dissipates.
Hotteok: Korean Sweet Pancakes
For the bread dough:
For the filling:
- nuts any kind (I used pili)
- ⅓ cup brown sugar firmaly packed
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ 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 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 between your hands, 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.
- Serve the hoddeok (hotteok) as soon as they are done. That’s when they are at their very best.
If you cooked this dish (or made this drink) and you want to share your masterpiece, please use your own photos and write the cooking steps in your own words.