Tteokbokki (spicy ricecake stew)

Tteokbokki

One of the things I love about Seoul is that there is street food to be found in almost any corner of the city at almost any hour. Pojangmacha or “covered wagons” are typically unlicensed restaurants that spring up in back alleys and empty lots. I once went to one that you entered quite literally from a hole in a wall, behind which was a vast city of street vendors, covered in tarps with plastic stools and tables.

While street vendor sanitization can be questionable (they don’t have running water afterall), they do seem to make an effort to be clean, covering their plates in disposable plastic bags which they toss out after you’re done. Besides, everything is typically fried or boiled and they’re crimson with bacteria fighting chili peppers(capsaicin has antibacterial properties). If that’s not enough to convince you, these places also dispense bottles of 48 proof Soju to wash it all down with. Oh, and did I mention the food is delicious?

Plated Tteokbokki

Some neighborhoods have specialties, but most have basics like, kimbap (rice rolled in nori), odeng (korean oden), and various anju (bar snacks). Then of course there is the ubiquitous Tteokbokki. At its simplest it’s a snack consisting of garae tteok (Korean rice cakes similar to mochi), fishcake and large scallions that have been cooked in chili paste and odeng broth, but some places add eggs, veggies and even noodles, making it a more complete meal.

Tteokbokki was originally a stir-fried dish consisting of meat, veggies and garae tteok seasoned with soy sauce, but over the past half century an interesting thing happened. A clever vendor started offering it seasoned with spicy Gochujang and odeng, a fishcake dish of Japanese origin that’s another popular pojangmacha offering. The resulting dish, with thick chewy tteok covered in the red hot, slightly sweet sauce was a run-away hit and soon everyone was making it.

Tteokbokki Simmering

For my version, I tried to recreate the modern classic as faithfully as I could. L, who is always quick to point out that my renditions of Korean food “taste Japanese”, said that it tastes just like her favourite stall in Seoul and that it made her homesick (I later caught her listening to k-pop). I can’t think think of any higher praise:-)

Tteokbokki

1 cup odeng broth
1 cup water
2 tablespoons gochujang (see note below)
1 tablespoon red pepper powder (optional)
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 large clove garlic minced
1/2 carrot julienned
1 daepa cut on bias (see note below)
25 garae tteok (see note below)
fishcake and eggs from oden
1 brick of instant ramyeon noodles (optional)

Gochujang is a spicy Korean condiment that’s made from fermented soy beans, glutinous rice flour and chili peppers. It’s a blood red paste that typically comes in jars or plastic tubs and has a unique flavour that you really can’t substitute with anything else. This should be widely available at almost any Asian grocery store.

Daepa are a type of scallion that are much longer and thicker than normal scallions, but they’re not quite as fat as leeks. You should be able to find them in Korean markets as well as Japanese groceries where they go by the name of Tokyo Negi. If you can’t find them, 3 regular scallions will work just fine.

Garae tteok are cylindrical rice cakes, similar to mochi, but they are much more dense and will retain their shape even after cooking for some length. Unfortunately there really isn’t a substitute (mochi will have a much softer texture), if you have an Asian or Korean grocery near you they carry it.

Soak the tteok in warm water for about an hour then drain.

In a large flat bottomed pan or skillet whisk the broth, water, gochujang, pepper, honey, sesame oil and garlic together. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Cook for an additional 7-10 minutes or until the tteok are soft and the broth has reduced and thickened slightly.

Bring the whole pan to the table so everyone can pick out the bits they like best. You can also optionally cook this at the table on a table top burner.

  • http://duodishes.wordpress.com/ The Duo Dishes

    Colorful food means flavorful foods. This looks like it’s brimming with spicy goodness. And you said soju!!! Gotta love that.

  • http://duodishes.wordpress.com The Duo Dishes

    Colorful food means flavorful foods. This looks like it’s brimming with spicy goodness. And you said soju!!! Gotta love that.

  • http://elrasbaking.blogspot.com/ Elra

    OMG, this dish look so delicious. I love spicy food, and I am going to like this one too.
    Cheers,
    Elra

  • http://elrasbaking.blogspot.com Elra

    OMG, this dish look so delicious. I love spicy food, and I am going to like this one too.
    Cheers,
    Elra

  • http://noobcook.com/ noobcook

    I love spicy hotpots like this! Very comforting =)

  • http://noobcook.com noobcook

    I love spicy hotpots like this! Very comforting =)

  • http://www.kalofagas.blogspot.com/ Peter

    This post reminds I should buy a rub of Gochujang, I think it’s use could transcend into my cooking.

    I had some Kalbi on the weekend and I saw a dude beside me scarfing down a stewy-soup like this..the smell was awesome!

    • marc

      Greek-Korean sounds like a fantastic combo:-)

  • http://www.kalofagas.blogspot.com Peter

    This post reminds I should buy a rub of Gochujang, I think it’s use could transcend into my cooking.

    I had some Kalbi on the weekend and I saw a dude beside me scarfing down a stewy-soup like this..the smell was awesome!

    • marc

      Greek-Korean sounds like a fantastic combo:-)

  • http://colloquialcookin.canalblog.com/ Colloquial Cook

    I know so little about Korean food, lucky you’re here. How on earth did you manage to take a picture of a ragù and make it look sexy, that’s beyond me. I refuse to put it down to the magic lightroom :-)

    • marc

      My newest secret weapon is a 60W compact florescent bulb that puts out 2600 lumens. It turns night into day:-)

  • http://colloquialcookin.canalblog.com/ Colloquial Cook

    I know so little about Korean food, lucky you’re here. How on earth did you manage to take a picture of a ragù and make it look sexy, that’s beyond me. I refuse to put it down to the magic lightroom :-)

    • marc

      My newest secret weapon is a 60W compact florescent bulb that puts out 2600 lumens. It turns night into day:-)

  • http://www.sweetsfoods.com/ Gera @ SweetsFoods

    Hi Marc!

    Spicy food always sparks your soul and sometimes your mouth but utterly worth! I don’t know if I can find Gochujang here will see if it’s available!

    All the best!
    Gera

  • http://www.sweetsfoods.com/ Gera @ SweetsFoods

    Hi Marc!

    Spicy food always sparks your soul and sometimes your mouth but utterly worth! I don’t know if I can find Gochujang here will see if it’s available!

    All the best!
    Gera

  • http://www.buffchickpea.com/ Hayley

    Beautiful pictures. It looks so spicy, which I love.

  • http://www.buffchickpea.com Hayley

    Beautiful pictures. It looks so spicy, which I love.

  • http://fivestarfoodie.blogspot.com/ Natasha – 5 Star Foodie

    I’ve never had Tteokbokki – looks delicious and the picture is gorgeous!

  • http://fivestarfoodie.blogspot.com Natasha – 5 Star Foodie

    I’ve never had Tteokbokki – looks delicious and the picture is gorgeous!

  • http://www.foodgal.com/ Carolyn Jung

    This looks so amazingly savory, spicy, and addicting. Perfect food on a cold night. That’s what I love about Korean food — it’s rustic comfort food in a bowl.

  • http://www.foodgal.com Carolyn Jung

    This looks so amazingly savory, spicy, and addicting. Perfect food on a cold night. That’s what I love about Korean food — it’s rustic comfort food in a bowl.

  • http://www.practicallydone.com/ helen

    Hot and spicy – my favourite kind of food!

    The one quibble I have with living in North America is the lack of street food/things on a stick/food in a bag. The most popular hot dog stand in the Vancouver downtown core is called “JapaDog”, run by a Japanese couple. They sell hot dogs (obviously), with new twists – nori, teriyaki and mayo on beef is one version, and grated daikon and green onions on weisswurst is another.

    • marc

      That sounds awesome next time I’m in Vancouver, I’ll definitely have to check it out.

  • http://www.practicallydone.com helen

    Hot and spicy – my favourite kind of food!

    The one quibble I have with living in North America is the lack of street food/things on a stick/food in a bag. The most popular hot dog stand in the Vancouver downtown core is called “JapaDog”, run by a Japanese couple. They sell hot dogs (obviously), with new twists – nori, teriyaki and mayo on beef is one version, and grated daikon and green onions on weisswurst is another.

    • marc

      That sounds awesome next time I’m in Vancouver, I’ll definitely have to check it out.

  • http://www.thekneadforbread.com/ Chuck

    I love spicy food and I agree I think if you poured this over a couple of poached eggs. You would have the most delicious breakfast.

  • http://www.thekneadforbread.com Chuck

    I love spicy food and I agree I think if you poured this over a couple of poached eggs. You would have the most delicious breakfast.

  • http://www.rosas-yummy-yums.blogspot.com/ Rosa

    That stew looks good and flavorful! I’m sure I’d like this delicious dish…

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  • http://www.rosas-yummy-yums.blogspot.com Rosa

    That stew looks good and flavorful! I’m sure I’d like this delicious dish…

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  • http://www.pigpigscorner.com/ pigpigscorner

    I love Korean food! So spicy and tasty. I always order stir-fried rice cakes with kochujang, but never had the stew before. Sounds delicious.

    About your question, In Malaysia, a lot of families seem to have their own ‘secret recipe’ of chili made out of dried shrimps, most Chinese refer it as hae bee hiam (chili shrimp floss). While I just call them belacan chili, maybe because of the strong dried shrimp taste.

    Belacan is actually shrimp paste which is widely used in Malay cooking. They normally come in blocks and you can get them from oriental supermarkets. We normally use it for sambal belacan where you pound together chili, belacan and other ingredients to make a dip or as an accompaniment to rice. Another popular dish is belacan kangkung, which is morning glory stir fried with belacan. Not to forget belacan fried rice!

  • http://www.pigpigscorner.com pigpigscorner

    I love Korean food! So spicy and tasty. I always order stir-fried rice cakes with kochujang, but never had the stew before. Sounds delicious.

    About your question, In Malaysia, a lot of families seem to have their own ‘secret recipe’ of chili made out of dried shrimps, most Chinese refer it as hae bee hiam (chili shrimp floss). While I just call them belacan chili, maybe because of the strong dried shrimp taste.

    Belacan is actually shrimp paste which is widely used in Malay cooking. They normally come in blocks and you can get them from oriental supermarkets. We normally use it for sambal belacan where you pound together chili, belacan and other ingredients to make a dip or as an accompaniment to rice. Another popular dish is belacan kangkung, which is morning glory stir fried with belacan. Not to forget belacan fried rice!

  • http://rasamalaysia.com/ Bee

    Ooooh, love the color, love the spices, and love the hard-boiled egg. I have never tried this dish though but I love a similar stew with crab. Yum!

  • http://rasamalaysia.com Bee

    Ooooh, love the color, love the spices, and love the hard-boiled egg. I have never tried this dish though but I love a similar stew with crab. Yum!

  • http://manggy.blogspot.com/ Manggy

    I love that you absolutely don’t hold back with the ingredients ;) No wonder it tastes so authentic! Plus, you won’t need to kill any germs with alcohol, heh heh :)

  • http://manggy.blogspot.com Manggy

    I love that you absolutely don’t hold back with the ingredients ;) No wonder it tastes so authentic! Plus, you won’t need to kill any germs with alcohol, heh heh :)

  • http://www.thedailyspud.com/ Daily Spud

    I was in Seoul for a few days a couple of years ago – loved the food I had there and loved the proliferation of street food vendors. Happy memories!

  • http://www.thedailyspud.com Daily Spud

    I was in Seoul for a few days a couple of years ago – loved the food I had there and loved the proliferation of street food vendors. Happy memories!

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  • http://www.brooklynfarmhouse.com/ megan (brooklyn farmhouse)

    I wish I had some of this right now. I’m feeling a little under the weather and I have the feeling this would kick those little cold germs right out of me! Once again – great photos!

  • http://www.brooklynfarmhouse.com megan (brooklyn farmhouse)

    I wish I had some of this right now. I’m feeling a little under the weather and I have the feeling this would kick those little cold germs right out of me! Once again – great photos!

  • http://voodoolily.blogspot.com/ Heather

    I’ve been trying to find the Tokyo “giant” scallions, and here you are using them nonchalantly in your tteokbokki.

    This reminds me of the spicy tofu and squid stew that I love so much. It’s a good time to whip some soon tofu, I think. Ooh, I still have some of the nian gao left over in my freezer, too (they’re thinner, but thick enough). Hmm…thanks for the brainstorm. :)

  • http://voodoolily.blogspot.com Heather

    I’ve been trying to find the Tokyo “giant” scallions, and here you are using them nonchalantly in your tteokbokki.

    This reminds me of the spicy tofu and squid stew that I love so much. It’s a good time to whip some soon tofu, I think. Ooh, I still have some of the nian gao left over in my freezer, too (they’re thinner, but thick enough). Hmm…thanks for the brainstorm. :)

  • http://www.weareneverfull.com/ we are never full

    i so want to go to seoul and not sleep, and also have a wooden leg (or maybe just gain an eating disorder?) and just EAT EAT EAT. korean food is one of the cuisines i’ve fallen in love with since moving to new york 10 years ago and i can’t imagine it not in my life. this looks gorgeous.

    • http://www.strictlyfoodie.com Sade Williams

      I agree! I discovered it about a year ago, and I’m hooked!

  • http://www.weareneverfull.com we are never full

    i so want to go to seoul and not sleep, and also have a wooden leg (or maybe just gain an eating disorder?) and just EAT EAT EAT. korean food is one of the cuisines i’ve fallen in love with since moving to new york 10 years ago and i can’t imagine it not in my life. this looks gorgeous.

  • http://www.bigboldbeautifulfood.blogspot.com/ Ninette

    I just ate this tonight for the first time. I really liked it!

  • http://www.bigboldbeautifulfood.blogspot.com Ninette

    I just ate this tonight for the first time. I really liked it!

  • http://kpop.puttles.com/Who_Kpop_celebrity_know_how_to_cook-101196.html Ella

    I'll try this sometimes!!!

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  • http://www.facebook.com/jtakita1 Jim Takita

    Can you make it with kimchee chigae?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      It won’t be tteokbokki, but I’m sure it would be delicious:-)

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  • Jessica Verango

    Is there a way to make this dish without fish, I am allergic but really eager to try it?
    Thanks!

  • Jessi

    My boyfriend made this for me once with beef broth because we could not find dried anchovy at the time. The next day, we added tonkotsu to what was leftover and ate it with panko potato patties instead of fish cake. We loved it so much, we may never go back to the original recipe.

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