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A bite of Seoul street food: Kkultarae

Kkultarae, court cakes

When I first saw someone making kkultarae, I had no idea that a type of candy was being made. I actually thought, from a distance, that the vendors were hand-pulling some exceptionally fine noodles, since the motions that the were making when pulling a white substance into multiple strands looked a lot like the method used to hand-pull noodles. Kkultarae, also known as Korean court cakes, are actually made with honey, not noodles. Thick, firm honey is stretched and pulled into strands, dipped heavily in cornstarch to keep the strands from sticking together, then wrapped around a filling of ground nuts.  The finished product is made with 16,000 strands of very fine honey!

The kkultarae is dry and sweet, with a bit of a nuttiness to the inside, not entirely unlike the center of a Reese’s peanut butter cup although it is much lighter and less moist. I chose to try a peanut kkultarae, but there was also an almond flavor. The honey really lent a lot of flavor to the cake. The stands of honey were so fine, however, that they started to melt almost the instant they hit your tongue. Mine had more honey than filling and was about the size of a mini Snickers bar (a small square). The vendor I bought mine from recommended keeping them in the fridge, so the honey was cool enough to last more than two or three seconds in your mouth.

I liked these, but can’t say that I would want to eat more than one or two at a time. I’m not sure where else they offer these, but it’s extremely popular in the Insadong area, where there are many vendors who sing and chant while they pull the honey and wrap the kkultarae, drawing in a big crowd to watch as they work. I didn’t get any video of the vendors at work, but there are plenty on YouTube that give you a good idea of what it’s like to pull all that honey:

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  • Dolce
    October 15, 2009

    It’s impressive, the way it’s made. 16,000 strands, whoa! How much does this cost?

  • Pam
    October 15, 2009

    I tried something that looked a lot like these when I was in Hong Kong a few years back, but they were called Dragon’s Beard Candy. I liked them a lot and tried to bring some back home (Canada). I didn’t know how fragile they were and when I opened the box up they had melted into a a solid mass LOL

  • Stephanie
    October 15, 2009

    I think I’ve had a Chinese version of this as well and they called it “Dragon’s breath”? I think? It was very unique and delicious.

    I’m enjoying your posts on Korea, thanks for the “armchair travel” reading.

  • Nicole
    October 15, 2009

    Dolce – They were less than $4 US for a box where I picked them up, plus you got to watch the show. I saw some vendors charging a bit more, and some who gave a discount if you bought two or three boxes.

  • simulacrum
    January 11, 2011

    Make your own:


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