Exploring the Secret World of Tteokbokki

Literally “stir-fried rice cake,” A popular Korean rice cake, tteokbokki (떡볶이) has a long history and various varieties.  Also called ddukbokki, ddeokbokki, dukbokki, or topokki. This spicy rice cake is a street meal and household favorite.   

What is tteokbokki? 

Red spicy tteokbokki is newer than gungjung, which has been around for centuries. In 1953, when the Korean War ended, Seoul resident Ma Bok-rim created it in Sindang-dong. An economical comfort snack, the chewy rice cake in spicy gochujang sauce gained popular immediately.   

Tteokbokki is created from garaetteok (가래떡), a cylinder-shaped white rice cake made with short-grain rice. Thick rice cakes are chopped into narrow oval forms for tteokguk (rice cake soup), while thinner, shorter ones are used for tteokbokki (떡볶이떡). This recipe works with either variety, however the thick type must be chopped thinner and shorter.    

   Ingredients  

Rice cakes 

eomuk (fish cake)—typically served with thin slices of fish cake, green cabbage, scallions, garlic   

Other additions 

Soy sauce, sugar, and gochujang, which is Korean red chili pepper paste.   

Tteokbokki sauce 

Unless you're working with newly prepared soft rice cakes, soak the cakes for at least 20 minutes.   

How to make tteokbokki 

Mince the scallions, cabbage, and fish cake into pieces approximately 2 inches long. 

Combine the sauce ingredients with the anchovy broth (or water) in a large saucepan and swirl to combine. Before adding the rice cakes, bring it to a boil. 

Boil the rice cakes for 8 to 10 minutes (or longer if necessary) while stirring regularly, or until they are extremely soft and the sauce has thickened. 

Put fish cakes and vegetables in. Stir regularly as you boil for 4–6 more minutes. Rice cakes may take longer to soften. You can add broth or water as needed.    

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