K-Drama inspired Tteokbokki

K-Drama inspired Tteokbokki

K-Dramas have taken over my life! If you’re wondering why I haven’t posted the last couple of weeks, its because I’ve been CONSUMED with this Korean import. After many weeks of smiles, tears, and heart wrenching emotional torment, I noticed something important. No matter what genre the series falls in to, romantic melodrama, fantasy, or historical fiction, there is a noticeable cultural focus on cooking and eating together.
In Korean culture sharing a meal together is essential for nurturing relationships and fostering a sense of community. Almost every episode in a series will feature people sharing classical Hansik(Korean Cuisine)dishes together like Jajangmyeon, Tteokbokki or Kimbap and drinking Beer, Soju or Rice Wine. Besides that, there seems to be a recurrent scene, which I now believe to be obligatory, where a character walks into the shot with a plastic grocery bag filled with Korean Green/Spring Onions protruding from the top. There’s something special about those Green Onions.

Inspiration

Inspired by Goblin, one of 2017’s most viewed and beloved K-dramas–if you haven’t seen it, go watch now, you will thank me later I promise– I decided to try my hand at the popular Korean comfort food Tteokbokki.
Tteokbokki is a cylindrical rice cake which has been stewed in a spicy sauce made with fish stock and Gochujang (Korean Red Chili Paste). There are many unique versions of this iconic dish, some recipes add ramen and others add cheese. It is sweet, spicy, salty and chewy. The texture of the rice cake is absolutely addicting, and the sauce is one of the tastiest most well-balanced sauces I’ve ever had in my life. In Korea, I am told, Tteokbokki the most famous street food and it’s cheap as well, a serving costs only about 3.00 USD.

“You can’t have TteokGuk without green onions” Lee Dong Wook, Goblin(2017).

This recipe was partially adapted from Maanghchi’s Tteokbokki Recipe. If you love Korean Food and haven’t seen her YouTube Channel make sure you check it out. I love her and could listen to her talk about Korean Food for hours. She just has this voice that pacifies me and compels me to listen in a dream-like state. Maanghchi is Magic.

Korean Pantry Staples

All of the ingredients for this recipe were purchased at HMart Korean Grocery Store. H-Mart has PA, NJ and NY locations, some of which include home delivery. The store is clean and the staff is very helpful and friendly. However, most Asian groceries stock Korean staples so do not worry if there is no H-Mart grocery’s in your area. The best Tteokbokki I’ve had in the Philadelphia area was at the HMart Food Court in Elkins Park. The sauce in the recipe below is my interpretation of those flavors.

This Korean dish is very easy and fast to prepare. The pantry ingredients can be a bit pricey, however, you probably have most of them in your kitchen already if you make Asian food on a regular basis. You will only need to purchase a few new items for your pantry that can be used for many more Korean dishes in the future.

How to make Tteokbokki Broth

Fish broth ingredients.

  • Dried anchovies
  • Scallions
  • Dried Kelp

To your chosen braising vessel add 5 cups of water, 5-7 anchovies, 3-4 scallions and a large piece of Kelp. Kelp typically comes in large sheets, for this recipe I broke one sheet in half to get the required size about 6×8 inches.

First, bring the liquid to a boil then simmer for about 20 minutes. You may notice some sediment start to collect on the top of the

broth, skim this off as much as possible with a ladle or a metal spoon. Next, strain your broth and its ready to go. Easy Peazy.

How to Make Tteokbokki Sauce

Sauce Ingredients.

  • Gochujang
  • Korean Red Chili Powder
  • Sugar
  • Soy Sauce
  • Garlic

Combine everything in a bowl, mix thoroughly and add directly to the prepared broth.

Tteok, the star of the show.

” Tteok is a class of Korean rice cakes made with steamed flour made of various grains, including glutinous or non-glutinous rice. Steamed flour can also be pounded, shaped, or pan-fried to make tteok. In some case, tteok is pounded from cooked grains.”(Wikipedia)

In addition to Tteok, Korean rice cakes you will need three ingredients.

  • Fish Cakes or Imitation Crab Meat
  • Hard-boiled Eggs(Optional)
  • Scallions

Fish Cake and its humble substitute

Traditionally, Tteokbokki is make with fish cake a thin prepackaged flat “cake” made with shrimp, squid and white fish. I am not a fan of this product as in it’s prepackaged form. I find it a little to “fishy.” Home made fish cake is ideal but in the interest of saving time and money I found these imitation crab sticks in my local Giant for only $1 a piece.

Imitation crab is very easy to work with. Each stick is a flat sheet that has been tightly rolled into its cylindrical shape. This can be easily unrolled and then either shredded or cut into triangles.

Your scallions will be cut into two inch sections and added to the sauce along with your rice cakes and fish cake/imitation crab meat. Hard-boiled eggs are optional, you can add them to the sauce directly to cook along side the rice cakes or slice them and add at the end as a garnish. I prefer the latter.

Cooking until the right consistency

Once the rice cakes, scallions and eggs have been added to the simmering chili sauce cooking time will vary. Cover the pot and stir every 10 minutes for a total of 30 minutes. After 30 minutes test a rice cake, it should be soft and chewy. You may need to add 1-2 cups of water to the sauce if it became too thick, which is probably will as the rice cakes release their starches, and continue cooking an additiona 10-15 minutes The sauce should have a thick, bisque-like consistency and should coat the back of a spoon easily.

Garnishing

Garnishing this dish is fun, take your time and be creative. I like to garnish mine with a little Ume Plum vinegar for tartness, sesame seeds, toasted sesame oil, more scallions, and sliced hard-boiled eggs.

I hope you enjoy making this classic South Korean comfort food as much as I enjoy eating it. Give it a try and let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Tteokbokki

Tteokbokki or Ddukdokki is awesomely addictive for its flavor and texture and is a Korean favorite worldwide. 

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 4 Servings

Ingredients

Broth

  • 1 piece Kombu or other dried kelp 6×8 inch
  • 7 each Dried Anchovies
  • 5 Cups Water + more if needed
  • 3 each Scallions roots removed and cut in half

Sauce

  • 1/3 Cup Korean Red Chili Paste, Gochujang
  • 1 T Korean Red Pepper Powder
  • 1 T Sugar
  • 1 T Soy Sauce
  • 1 each Garlic Clove minced

Main Ingredients

  • 1.5 Lbs Korean Rice Cakes 2-3 inch pieces
  • 1 pack Imitation crab meat fishcake is traditionally used
  • 3 each Hard Boiled Eggs

Garnish

  • 1 T Ume Plum Vinegar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp sesame seeds
  • 2 each scallions thinly sliced on a bias

Instructions

Prepare Broth

  1. To your chosen braising vessel add 5 cups of water, 5-7 anchovies, 3-4 scallions and a large piece of Kelp, about 6×8 inches. 

  2. Bring to a boil over high heat, once boiling reduce heat to low, simmer for about 20 minutes.  Which the broth is simmering soak the rice cakes in some cold water this will help reduce cooking time. 

  3. You may notice some sediment start to collect on the top of the broth, skim this off as much as possible with a ladle or a metal spoon. Next, strain your broth and its ready to go.

Prepare Sauce

  1. Combine chili powder, chili sauce, soy sauce, garlic, and sugar in a bowl and stir to combine. Set aside. 

Prepare Stew

  1. To the strained broth add chili sauce mixture and stir. Next add the soaked rice cakes, fish cake/ICM, and hardboiled eggs if using. Gently stir to combine.

  2. Cover your cooking vessel with a tight-fitting lid and simmer over medium-low heat for 10 minutes. Gently stir, replace lid and continue to cook for an additional 10 minutes. Repeat an additional time then check rice cake for texture. 

  3. If the rice cake remains tough or the sauce is too thick start by adding 1 cup of water and cooking an additional 5-10 minutes. Repeat if necessary. 

Garnish and Serve

  1. Once the rice cakes are cooked to desired tenderness remove from heat. Stir in Ume Plum Vinegar and Sesame Oil. 

    Garnish with chopped scallions, sesame seeds, and sliced hardboiled eggs. 

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