One of the most popular street foods in Korea, tteokbokki (Korean spicy rice cakes), is not only simple to make but perfect for sharing with the gang. Everyone, grab a fork!
MJ: This post is a collaborative effort between the Hungryman and me – I cook. He writes. He’s been missing in action for so long that I threatened to change our blog name to The Adventures of MJ. Fortunately, he didn’t just shrug his shoulders and throw in the towel. Whew..So here he is!
Hungryman: Few foods cause MJ’s eyes to sparkle quite the way that tteokbokki does. When we visited Korea this summer, it was the dish she most looked forward to eating. I’m not sure if it’s the spice that gets her endorphins going or the multitude of add-ins that can be incorporated into the dish (Korean blood sausage, fish cake, ramen, cheese!!), but I’m gonna put my money on the white morsels of chewy goodness – the tteok, or rice cakes.
MJ: Spot on, dude! Sorry to interrupt. Please continue. 😉
big HUGE on texture, and there’s just something about those rice cakes that strikes a harmonious chord in her mouth and takes her to her happy place. Although it doesn’t quite have the same effect on me, I’ll eat it just to see that grin on her face :). And if it’s the only way that I can consume any white rice, I’ll take it! I honestly can’t remember the last time I saw a purely white bowl of rice in our house. Weeks? Months?? Oh well…
Tteokbokki is sold on nearly every street corner in Korea…food carts, small eateries, restaurants, you name it. MJ prefers the ones sold out in the streets, though. Now considering she’s extremely OCD about cleanliness, it’s a head scratcher. There’s something about these modest little mom and pop businesses that make them irresistibly charming.
Since it’s not so readily available here, MJ has been working on perfecting the recipe at home. I’m gonna have to surrender the reins back to MJ as I have no idea how she made this. I’m just her taste tester, and I can’t complain ;).
MJ: There are many, many variations to this beloved dish. You can add all the ingredients that the Hungryman mentioned in the beginning or just keep it simple. Personally, I’d be happy with just the rice cakes. The Hungryman loves ramen noodles in his, but I wanted to add the homemade dumplings (click on the link to find the full recipe) that had been sitting in the freezer. Could you imagine – rice cakes, ramen, AND dumplings? Talk about carb overload!
I like to start out by making a super simple anchovy broth, which serves as the base for many Korean soups/stews. All you need is some dried kelp and anchovies as you see pictured above. Hopefully you have access to an Asian or Korean supermarket nearby. The broth adds a lovely depth of flavor, and no worries – it’s not overly fishy. However, you can choose to skip this step all together and just add water.
Once the broth is done, stir in the sauce, rice cakes, and the rest of the ingredients. The sauce should be a bit soup-y when finished to keep everything from drying out.If you want to up the spice level, simply add more red chili flakes rather than the paste. You don’t want this dish to be too salty. A slight sweetness is key! Corn syrup is typically added not only to add sweetness but also to give the dish that lovely sheen. I chose to go with sugar instead. No difference taste-wise. It just won’t have that lovely glossy look that it’s known for.
Hungryman: So how’d she do? Doesn’t the picture say it all? Boiling the kelp and anchovies to create a base broth really infused a wealth of flavor into the dish. It was spicy but not overly so…just enough to start a light sweat and warm the insides. My personal favorite was the hard-boiled egg halves that became so much more when coated with the magical red sauce. I will say, though, that she made a LOT for just two people. For someone who’s big on portion control, this kinda through me for a loop. I guess tteokbokki to her is just one of those dishes where all rules and self-control are thrown out the window. We definitely could’ve used a few friends to help us finish off this hearty meal.
MJ: So now it’s your turn! Get your chew on ;).
- 1 pound of rice cakes
- 4 cups of water
- 6-8 dried anchovies, heads and intestines removed
- 5 (1x2 in) kelp pieces
- 2 sheets of fish cake, sliced
- 1-2 scallions, sliced
- 1 medium carrot, sliced on the bias
- 2 hard boiled eggs (optional)
- Dumplings (optional)
- 3 tablespoons gochujang (Korean red pepper paste)
- 1 tablespoon gochugaru (Korean red pepper powder)
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- Add water, dried anchovies and kelp to a shallow pan. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Discard kelp and anchovies.
- Add sauce mixture to the pan and stir thoroughly.
- Add rice cakes, fish cakes, carrots, and green onion. Stir gently and cook until rice cakes soften and sauce thickens.
- Stir in dumplings (be careful not to break) and eggs. Remove from heat. Garnish with fresh green onion. Eat immediately.