Sun. Jul 14th, 2024

Yasik Culture: Check Out Korea’s Top 5 Midnight Snacks

Koreans are obsessed with “yasik” (야식) which means “late night meal.” It all began about twenty years ago when vendors roamed the residential alleys on winter nights selling food like chaltteok (rice cakes filled with sweet beans) and memil-muk (buckwheat jelly). Whenever vendors passed through each neighborhood, people would trickle out of their houses to chat and enjoy a tasty nighttime snack.

Yasik is particularly popular during major sporting events. When the World Cup or Olympic Games come around, fried chicken franchises sell so much chicken that they often run out and even have to turn away customers.

Furthermore, Korea is truly a country that never sleeps, and so neither does its appetite! Yasik culture has caused many Korean restaurants to stay open all night long, especially for office workers staying late at the office and many students studying at private institutes until after dusk.

1. Ramyeon

Ramyeon (ramen) is one of the most widely enjoyed snack foods in Korea and is hailed as the food of the people. It can be made in a variety of ways: with lots of veggies like bean sprouts, mushrooms, and spring onions, or with an egg or shrimp for added nutrition. Korea is number one worldwide in ramyeon consumption. It is estimated that on average each person in Korea consumes about 80 packs of ramyeon noodles each year!

Media: “The K2” on tvN

2. Fried Chicken

The first KFC was opened in Jogno, Seoul in 1984, officially bringing American fried chicken to Korea.

However, the concept of fried chicken was introduced much earlier by American soldiers during the war. Since then, Koreans began their great love affair with fried chicken and developed their own way of double frying the chicken so it is extra crispy and not greasy.

Over the years, various types of fried chicken have emerged. Restaurants and home cooks would toss it in various sauces and spices: gochujang red pepper paste, red pepper flakes, soy sauce, garlic, and other ingredients that delight the Korean palate. Riding the wave of this new trend, fried chicken franchises continue to pop up, offering an even greater choice of fried chicken varieties.

These days, chicken lovers can choose from fried chicken covered with sweet and spicy sauces, sauces with a soy sauce base, and much much more!

Media: “The King Eternal Monarch” on SBS

3. Jokbal and Bossam

Jokbal and Bossam are favorite night-time meals for those who love meat. Jokbal is pig’s feet cooked with soy sauce and spices, making for a nutritious and chewy dish while Bossam is pork meat steamed with doenjang sauce, spring onions, and garlic. When the meat is fully cooked, it is sliced and eaten with lettuce wraps or steamed cabbage. Both jokbal and bossam are high-protein foods that are low in fat, so they are slightly healthier than other nighttime favorites.

Media: “Let’s Eat 2” on tvN

4. Tteokbokki and Sundae 

Street foods tteokbokki and sundae are also high on the list of late-night meals. Tteokbokki is made by boiling cylindrical rice cakes called garae-tteok with fish cakes called eomuk in a gochujang sauce. It is a favorite snack for Koreans of all ages. Sundae is made by stuffing pigs’ intestines with a mixture of seasoned glutinous rice, cellophane noodles, and vegetables, then steaming or boiling the sausage.

Typically, sundae is eaten with coarse salt or tteokbokki broth. Not only favorite night-time meals, tteokbokki and sundae are also great snacks eaten any time of the day. Since they are affordable and usually come in generous portions, they are enjoyed by junior and high school students, as well as adults.

Media: “Oh My Venus” on KBS

5. Gungoguma and Hobbang

When the weather gets cold and the nights get longer, there is nothing more comforting than the warmth of gungoguma (roasted sweet potatoes) or hoppang (steamed white bread with bean or veggie filling).

In the past, gungoguma was sold by street vendors who baked the sweet potatoes over a wood fire in a big iron barrel. The nutty sweet potatoes and the steamed white buns filled with red azuki bean paste or vegetables are great winter favorites that help warm up the chilly nights. 

Media: “Hotel Del Luna”

Do you prefer midnight snacking or do you just skip it? Let us know your thoughts by tweeting to us @whatthekpop1!

Polina has been recognized as an Honorary Korean Travel Ambassador since 2013. She always makes the effort to share the many aspects of Korea throughout the world and express affection for Korea. She graduated with two qualifications as an Organizer of Tourism and Leisure and Management of Hotel and Restaurant.

Media: As credited