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?
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.
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:-)
- 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.
_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.