During the colder months in Korea, you can walk outside and buy hotteok (호떡), often still sizzling from the heat of the griddle. My penchant for the delicious fried pancakes stuffed with brown sugar and cinnamon runs deep – I’ve walked home many nights trying to catch the hot syrup in between bites before it dripped and froze to my gloves. Many vendors forgo hotteok in the summer months, changing their menu items to more sought-after cold treats. Now that I am comfortable making them, I’m prepared for that bleak period when my favorite hotteok vendor switches to ice cream.
Ingredients (makes 8-10 hotteok)
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons instant yeast (check to make sure it is fresh)
1 and 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup glutinous rice flour
1-2 heaping tablespoons black sesame seeds
1/4 cup high smoke point oil, I prefer grapeseed
For the filling:
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
Walnuts, pulsed to small pieces, optional (peanuts or other nuts can be substituted)
Extra sesame seeds, optional
Add the yeast, both flours, and sesame seeds to a large metal bowl. Stir well to combine. Gently warm the milk, just enough to make the yeast happy without killing it (100-110 F is a good range) and add it to the metal bowl. Stir well to combine, and soon you will have a glutinous mass. Cover the bowl and let it sit until the dough has risen quite a bit, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, make your filling by combining the filling ingredients well in a small bowl.
Separate the dough into 8-10 equally sized portions (handling the sticky dough is much easier with oiled hands). Gently flatten a portion in your hands, creating a shallow well for the filling. Place a spoonful of the filling in the center, then seal it up in a little ball by bringing all of the edges together. This may take one or two tries before you get the hang of it. Repeat with the remaining portions of dough, making sure to place them on an oiled plate for easy, tear-free removal.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Place one or two pancakes in the hot oil and gently flatten them just a little with an oiled metal hotteok press (a solid metal spatula or bowl bottom will work fine, too, if oiled well). Flip the hotteok over after about a minute, or when the bottom side is a nice golden brown. The hotteok will try to fluff-up, avoid this by firmly flattening the hotteok into the oil. Carefully lift the hotteok from the pan when both sides are a golden brown, and place them on a plate with paper towels to remove excess oil.
Take care when eating your hotteok – the hot brown sugar syrup inside is just that – HOT!