One way that Korea cleverly distinguishes its seasons is by its seasonal foods. Among Korean desserts, Spring and Summer is a time for 팥빙수 (patbingsu) whereas Fall and Winter is for 호떡 (hotteok).
When I first moved to South Korea in February 2011, I spent some time in Gangnam,
Seoul with a wonderful family whom I had met while working in Guam. After treating me to a lovely dinner, they bought me some 호떡 as a warm-you-up dessert from a streetside vendor.
호떡 is a doughy, pancake-like hot pastry that has a mixture of brown sugar, a little honey, and some finely-chopped peanuts on the inside. When pressed atop a heated, oiled griddle, it becomes delicious, warm, and a little gooey if you’re not careful. (Best to eat it either in a cup or with a small napkin on the bottom, so nothing oozes out onto your coat).
Well, as I was going home from work last week, I noticed the 호떡 stand was open in my neighborhood! I had my first 호떡 of the year (and cost only 500원)! So, I’m set for this winter with my 호떡 fix, but will admit that I’m gonna start missing my 팥빙수 until next Spring rolls around.
It makes perfect sense for Korea to offer these treats seasonally: shave ice patbingsu in the Summer and the warm pancake hotteok in the Winter, but making it seasonal also drives up the demand each year, I imagine. It reminds me of living in the States, when Easter would roll around and the stores would stock those delicious Cadbury Creme Eggs, which were available only during Spring. It was another reason for me to look forward to Spring every year. Korea has done the same thing with 호떡 and 팥빙수; they’ve created a seasonal demand…at least from me.