Tteokbokki (Spicy Stir-fried Rice Cakes)

What is tteokbokki?

Tteokbokki, which literally translates to “stir-fried rice cake,” is a well-liked Korean rice cake dish that also has a long and illustrious history. It is available in a wide variety of varieties. Alternatively, it can be written as ddukbokki, ddeokbokki, dukbokki, or topokki. This dish of spicy rice cakes is extremely well-liked as a street meal and is also frequently consumed in the comfort of one’s own home.

Tteokbokki (Spicy Stir-fried Rice Cakes)
Tteokbokki (Spicy Stir-fried Rice Cakes)

The history of the red spicy tteokbokki is very recent in comparison to the history of the gungjung tteokbokki, which has been around for hundreds of years. In the year 1953, following the conclusion of the Korean War, a woman by the name of Ma Bok-rim, who lived in the Sindang-dong neighborhood of Seoul, came up with the idea. The chewy rice cake dipped in a spicy gochujang sauce gained an instant hit as a simple and inexpensive way to satisfy a craving for comfort food.

This dish of spicy rice cakes had already gained a lot of popularity as a street meal by the time I was a child and going through my childhood. The tteokbokki that I had when I was growing up was in its traditional form, without any of the add-ins that are available today. I have wonderful memories of having it as a snack after school from any of the market booths or street carts that were available.

Ingredients for tteokbokki

Rice cakes
Garaetteok (가래떡) is a sort of rice cake that is used in the preparation of tteokbokki. It is a white rice cake that is formed like a cylinder and is created with short grain rice. When it comes to preparing tteokguk, which is a form of rice cake soup, the thick variety is sliced into thin oval shapes. On the other hand, the thinner and shorter rice cakes are used to make tteokbokki, which is where the name “tteokbokki tteok” comes from (喡볶이떡). You are free to use any one for this dish; however, the thick kind must be sliced thinner and become shorter in order to be suitable for this recipe.

Tteokbokki

There are Korean marketplaces where you may purchase these rice cakes that have been freshly cooked, refrigerated, or frozen. They are available in a wide range of sizes and shapes. Using fresh ones that are created locally is, without a doubt, the greatest option, provided that they are available. If not, you should use ones that are chilled (or frozen).

Tteokbokki (Spicy Stir-fried Rice Cakes)
Tteokbokki (Spicy Stir-fried Rice Cakes)

Other additions

The classic and simple version I grew up eating had:

  • eomuk (fish cake) – usually thin sheets of fish cake
  • green cabbage, and
  • scallions
  • garlic

These are what I used in this tteokbokki recipe, and they add a lot to the flavor of the dish.

Tteokbokki has continued to evolve over time. Today, people add all sorts of other ingredients such as ramyun noodles, dumplings, boiled eggs, hot dogs, seafood and even cheese.

Tteokbokki sauce

Anchovy broth is typically used for a depth of flavor, but you can simply use water if you like. The main seasoning ingredients are:

  • gochujang (고추장, Korean red chili pepper paste)
  • soy sauce, and
  • sugar

Sometimes, gochugaru (고추가루, Korean red chili pepper flakes) is added for extra spiciness. It increases the heat level without altering the saltiness and sweetness. For the sweetness, you can simply use sugar or your other sugar substitutes. Koreans often also use syrup (e.g., oligo syrup) to add a sheen to the dish.

In this tteokbokki recipe, I’ve provided another combination of gochujang and gochugaru you can try if you like a clean tasting sauce with extra spiciness.

How to make tteokbokki

  1. Soak the rice cakes for about 20 minutes or longer unless you’re using freshly made soft rice cakes.
  2. Cut the fish cake, cabbage, and scallions into about 2-inch long pieces.
  3. In a large pan, stir in the sauce ingredients to the anchovy broth (or water). Bring it to a boil before adding the rice cakes.
  4. Add the rice cakes, and boil until the rice cakes become very soft and the sauce is thickened, about 8 – 10 minutes (can be longer), stirring occasionally.
  5. Add the vegetables and fish cakes. Continue to boil, stirring constantly, for an additional 4 – 6 minutes. Depending on rice cakes, you may need more time to reach a desired level of softness. Feel free to add more broth or water as necessary.
Vegan Tteokbokki
Vegetarian or vegan tteokbokki can be made with water or veggie broth instead of anchovies. Simply skip the fish cake or replace fried tofu pockets known as yubu. Some mushrooms would be wonderful as well.

FAQ:

What is Tteokbokki?

Tteokbokki is a popular Korean street food dish made with garaetteok (long, cylindrical rice cakes) simmered in a spicy and slightly sweet gochujang (Korean chili paste) sauce. It’s often served with additional ingredients like fish cakes, hard-boiled eggs, and vegetables.

Is Tteokbokki spicy?

Yes, Tteokbokki is known for its spicy flavor. The spiciness comes from the gochujang used in the sauce, although the level of spiciness can be adjusted to taste by varying the amount of chili paste used.

Can Tteokbokki be made less spicy?

Yes, Tteokbokki can be made less spicy by reducing the amount of gochujang or by using a milder variety of gochujang. Additionally, adding more sugar or other sweeteners can help balance out the heat.

What are the key ingredients in Tteokbokki?

The main ingredients include garaetteok (rice cakes), gochujang (Korean chili paste), sugar, soy sauce, garlic, onions, and water or broth. Additional ingredients like fish cakes, hard-boiled eggs, and vegetables are often added for extra flavor and texture.

Is Tteokbokki gluten-free?

Traditional Tteokbokki is typically gluten-free, as it’s made with rice cakes and ingredients like gochujang and soy sauce that are usually gluten-free. However, it’s essential to check the labels of pre-made sauces and other ingredients for any gluten-containing additives.

Can Tteokbokki be made vegetarian/vegan-friendly?

Yes, Tteokbokki can be made vegetarian or vegan-friendly by using vegetable broth instead of meat-based broth and omitting any animal-based ingredients like fish cakes or seafood. Additionally, vegan-friendly versions of gochujang and rice cakes can be used.

How do you make Tteokbokki?

Tteokbokki is typically made by simmering rice cakes in a spicy sauce made from gochujang, sugar, soy sauce, garlic, onions, and water or broth. Additional ingredients like fish cakes, eggs, and vegetables are added to the sauce to enhance flavor. The dish is cooked until the rice cakes are tender and the sauce has thickened.

What are some variations of Tteokbokki?

Some variations of Tteokbokki include adding different toppings like cheese, ramen noodles, or seafood. There are also non-spicy versions of Tteokbokki available for those who prefer milder flavors.

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