The Ultimate Beer Pairing For Sugary Hotteok

There are scads of great pancakes from around the world, covering a swath of delicious categories; savory, sweet, yeast-risen, chewy, crispy, thin, thick, and so on. In South Korea alone, there are buchimgae to seemingly suit every taste, with ingredients like kimchi, shrimp, gochujang, and flowers. One particularly popular variety among all ages, on the peninsula and abroad, is hotteok, a chewy, yeasty round of dough that is stuffed with a mixture of brown sugar, cinnamon, and sometimes nuts that is pan-fried until the outside is crispy and the filling turns to oozing sweet syrup. You can even make them at home with canned biscuit dough and a simple-to-assemble filling

Clearly, hotteok have major kid appeal, but there is a kid in all of us, so these treats, often found at street vendor's stalls, know no age limit. So, let's say you have a hankering for hotteok and are of legal drinking age and want to pair it with an adult beverage, particularly beer, but you're not sure which style would work best. Chef Judy Joo, chef & owner of Seoul Bird, with locations in London, Las Vegas, and now at CitiField & Barclays Center, is here to help with a suggestion that plays off the depth of the pancake. "For Hotteok, a stout with notes of chocolate and coffee works well with the [caramelized] sugar," Joo explained to Tasting Table in an exclusive interview.

Plenty of stouts to choose from

Joo's suggestion is a fitting one, given that many folks, especially Korean expats in the U.S., enjoy hotteok with a cup of coffee. The roasted malt that characterizes the mash bill of stouts exudes flavors similar to those of roasted coffee beans. Stouts, though, are no monolith. This dark style of beer, British in origin, is brewed around the world and has a wealth of variations that can be enjoyed on their own or paired with rich hotteok.

Likely the most famous is Guinness, which is a dry Irish stout. This style has an easy-drinking, almost light quality that belies the chocolate and the touch of bitterness that lies on its back end. Other examples include O'Hara's Irish Stout, Beamish, and Harpoon Brewery's Boston Irish Stout. If you like to pair sweet with sweet, you can stick with stout, as another popular style is sweet stout. These beers are sometimes made with the unfermentable sugar lactose, which is derived from milk. Flavors of dark chocolate, vanilla, and caramelized sugar help underpin and mirror the sweetness found in hotteok.

Korea's brewing scene is not as robust as other countries, but there are some great breweries turning out quality beers including stouts. For example, 7Bräu brews a traditional stout that it says uses thick roasted malt and has aromas of chocolate and coffee. Sipped alongside a hot, fresh hotteok, a cold pint of this stout might just be perfect.