Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Bridgeworthy: Seoul on a Stick – The Korean Corn Dog

These corn dogs are all about the cheese.

There are many reasons to stay on the island when looking for something good to eat. We have most everything we need. What we lack in Coronado is Seoul. We are living in a Korean food desert. 

I love Korean food, and I cook it with some regularity. David Chang’s Momofuku cookbook is one of the few in my library from which I have cooked almost all the recipes. I love Korean BBQ, and the taste of kimchi has grown on me over the years. 

I am always looking for something new, so when I first heard someone mention the Korean corn dog, it piqued my interest. I had to first figure out what this was and then find a good place to get one here in San Diego.

A Korean corn dog, also known as a Gamja hot dog, starts with either cheese or a hot dog on a stick. There are some other fillings, but these two are most common. So far it sounded very similar to Hot Dog on a Stick (I hoped the uniforms weren’t the same).

What I discovered is that the batter of a Korean corn dog is very different. An American corn dog uses cornmeal batter bound with eggs. A Korean corn dog has no corn at all. It uses yeasted batter, which produces a crispier crust. 

From there, the Korean corn dog further departs from its American cousin. Often the battered dog is rolled in panko bread crumbs, diced potatoes, cereal, or even ramen noodles. Then it all takes a bath in the fryer until golden brown. That is not the end of the story for this Korean treat. You won’t believe the next step… a dusting of sugar. Topping choices include mayo, mustard, ketchup, savory powders, and house-made sauces. The combinations of fillings, toppings, and condiments can be overwhelming. 

Two Hands Dog at Two Hands on Convoy

I found several fun places to find a good Gamja hot dog, and it’s not surprising they are in the Convoy area, one of the largest pan-Asian business districts in the country. From here on the island, it is just a short 18 minute drive. 

This special box at Two Hands has a special slot for the stick to prevent getting your hands messy.

Two Hands Seoul Corn Dog on Convoy Street serves an impressive lineup of Gamja hot dogs. First you to choose what filling you want on your stick. Then you choose the coating. The two most popular are the Spicy Dog and the Potato Dog. The Spicy Dog features a dusting of hot Cheeto powder and the Two Hands “spicy sauce.” Studded with small cubed potatoes that stick to the batter, the Potato Dog crisps up like French fries when dipped in hot oil. The last dog that grabbed my attention was the Crispy Rice Dog. Hardly a breakfast treat, this dog features Rice Krispies cereal on the exterior. Who doesn’t like a good snap, crackle, and pop?

Zzang Hot Dog on Convoy Street lives inside H Mart, a Korean supermarket/department store. The menu here is less about choosing a filling and toppings and more about choosing one of their set menu items. For example, they have a dog with squid ink in the batter, giving the finished product a black exterior that looks unique and somewhat quirky, as there are not a lot of black food items out there. The Cereal Mozz Sausage is half sausage, half mozzarella cheese dipped in batter and rolled in cornflakes. 

H Mart is a must-visit food destination. A small food court with five or six stalls greets you as you walk through the front door. Grab yourself a Zzang corn dog, then go exploring. The produce department is over the top, and the meat department features thinly sliced meats ready for soups and stir-fry.

A line up of corn dogs at Zzang.

The sugar sprinkled over the finished product really stood out. You can opt-out of the sugar bath, but I suggest trying it on at least one of your selections. The whole point of a Korean corn dog is to pair the salty with the sweet. Give it a try and see what you think. You never know what you may like unless you give it a go.

I hope you find these as fun as I do. And, no, it is not something I have on my weekly list of things to eat; it’s more like getting fried food at the county fair. Korean corn dogs are fun if you want to try something out of the ordinary. Experiencing exotic foods with friends and family creates food memories that last a lifetime. Get out there and make some of your own. 

Clyde Van Arsdall
Clyde Van Arsdall
Clyde is a trained chef that has worked in hospitality for nearly 40 years. In addition to cooking, he is a freelance food writer and storyteller. Clyde is a third-generation Coronado local, CHS graduate, and father of three. He owns and operates Olive Avenue Supper Club, a boutique catering company specializing in culinary experiences. You can follow his culinary journey on Instagram @oliveavenuesupper.Have a story for The Coronado Times to cover? Send news tips or story ideas to: [email protected]