How to make Spicy Korean Rice Cakes, Tteok-pokki (떡볶이)
Whenever I crave a good authentic Korean food, I don't think of the fancy gourmet kinds. I crave humble street foods in Korea. There are many to choose from. You will know what I mean if you have lived in Korea or traveled before.
Out of all the delicious foods from the street vendors, the spicy rice cakes have to be my #1 choice. I can literally eat them every day if I have to. The sticky chewy rice cakes slobbered in mildly spicy Korean chili paste sauce.... oh, boy...! I am in heaven.
Spicy Korean rice cakes are not only my personal favorite; it is perhaps all Korean people's favorite as well. Most local Koreans grow up eating these rice cakes. It is a nostalgic comfort food for any Korean.
There are many ways to prepare this dish, and many people have their secret way to flavor the sauce. The recipe I am about to share with you is not a secret recipe or using an exotic ingredient that no one can tell. It is rather a most common way of preparing the dish, and I love how it tastes.
If you have some basic Korean pantry items, you are all set to go.
The most important tip to flavor this dish is the stock! I use dried anchovies and dried sea kelp (aka konbu). You will need to simmer them in water for 10 minutes or so. Then you will get the gorgeous anchovy stock. If you don't like anchovies, then use konbu only. Or use sodium-free chicken stock. Plain water won't give you the taste .
Rice cakes are easily found in many Korean or Asian grocery stores these days. I recommend to use 100% rice cakes, but there are some kinds with wheat flour added. You can use them, too.
If your rice cakes are frozen, soak them in water for 10 minutes to thaw. If the rice cakes are fresh and soft right out of a package, no need to soak in water.
For the sauce, combine Korean chili paste, Korean chili flakes, sugar, soy sauce, and corn syrup. Corn syrup is an optional. It adds a little shine to the sauce and you can skip it if you don't want it.
Pour the reserved anchovy-sea kelp stock, about 2 cups, into the skillet.
Stir to mix everything in the skillet.
Now besides the rice cakes, you will also need these. Onion, carrot, cabbage, and the fish cakes called 어묵 (uhmook). I highly recommend to add fish cakes if you want the dish to taste just like the local Koreans' would. Of course, somehow if you can't stand the fish cakes, you can skip it. The choice is up to you.
The vegetables are optional as well. If you don't add them, you are just eating carb exploded rice cakes alone. You gotta have some vegetables to make your mama proud, right?
"Not eating vegetables? No dessert for you!" This is the way I rule with my kids in my house.
So place them all in the skillet and bring them to boil over medium heat.
... like this.
Stir occasionally so that everything will incorporate with the sauce.
You will need to cook this for about 15 minutes or so, until the sauce reduces to half and everything is tender.
You might need to adjust the heat level to medium-low, so that it doesn't burn on the bottom. Stir occasionally.
In order to make this dish into a complete meal, I added hard boiled eggs to obtain some protein. The recipe I am sharing will make two people's stomachs very happy, but one person can handle it all, too, if he or she is a big eater.
In fact, I pretty much finished most of it by myself, and I am regretting it right now.
However, if am presented with two bowls of lip smacking delicious dishes, one pasta dish made by Giada de Laurentiis, and the other.... these rice cakes...and I am asked to choose only one...
I will pick the rice cakes right at this moment. Because I can eat this two days in a row without being tired. "Sorry Giada, but I will change my mind tomorrow~"
This is really delicious way of enjoy rice cakes, if you can handle a little bit of spicy heat. Hope you can give this a try and feel the Korean nostalgic comfort with me.
Spicy Korean Rice Cakes (Tteok-pokki)
Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 20 min
- 12 oz (300g) rice cakes
- 1-2 sheets Korean style flat fish cakes, cut into large bite size pieces
- 6-7 large dried anchovies
- 1 large piece dried sea kelp (konbu)
- 3 cups water
- 1/4 small cabbage, diced
- 1/2 onion, sliced
- 1 small carrot, thinly sliced
- 2 heaping tablespoons Korean chili paste
- 1 tablespoon Korean chili flakes
- 1-1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon corn syrup, optional
- 1 green onion, chopped
- 2-4 hard boiled eggs
- In a small pot, combine 3 cups water with dried anchovies and sea kelp. Bring to boil first, then simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let it soak for 5 minutes. Discard the anchovies and the sea kelp and reserve 2 cups of the stock. Set aside.
- Meanwhile if your rice cakes are frozen, soak them in the cold water for 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- In a skillet, combine Korean chili paste, chili flakes, soy sauce, sugar, corn syrup. Pour the reserved 2 cups of anchovy stock and mix everything well. Put cabbage, onion, carrot, and rice cakes in the skillet and bring to boil over medium heat. When it starts to boil, stir occasionally to incorporate everything with the sauce and let them simmer for 15 minutes. Adjust the heat so that it doesn't burn or stick on the bottom in a skillet. Stir occasionally.
- When the sauce gets reduced half-way and everything is tender, remove from the heat and place hard boiled eggs on top. Sprinkle with green onion as garnish. Serve hot.
Note: Unfortunately the leftover rice cakes are not so great. So try to eat all while you can~! :)