Tteokbokki

Sautéed Rice Cakes

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Tteokbokki is quintessential Korean street food, as well known as it is easy to make. Thick, chewy tteok, or rice cakes, are simmered in a sweet-spicy gochujang sauce, their ample starches melting into the pot, making the dish thick and silky. When I was growing up in Korea in the 1970s, cheap and fast little tteokbokki places were just starting to pop up, thanks to one lady in particular who ran a popular stand in the neighborhood of Shin Dang Dong in Seoul. Eventually the area became the place to get tteokbokki from dozens of vendors who each prepared theirs with slightly different variations. To that end, I wanted to give you two recipes for this dish: Version 1 is the super-fast, bright-red, one-pot version most people make at home. Version 2 starts with toasted gochujang and umami-rich doenjang, which gives the dish a more complex, slow-cooked flavor, and also has vegetables and toasted rice cakes—my totally non-traditional addition, because I love that crunchy texture. Version 2 was developed by my sous chef at Insa, Yong Shin, at his insistence that the sauce be more flavorful. It’s a company-worthy version of tteokbokki, especially with a soft-boiled egg. But rest assured, both are delicious.

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Ingredients

Tteokbokki 1

  • ½ cup (120 ml) gochujang
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon gochugaru
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 pound (450 g) frozen or fresh rice cakes (see Note)
  • 1 bunch scallions, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced, white and green parts separated
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

Method

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the gochujang, honey, gochugaru, rice wine, and soy sauce with 1 cup (240 ml) water and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
  2. Add the rice cakes and let them cook, stirring often, until the sauce begins to thicken and coat the rice cakes, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add just the whites of the scallions, and let them cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until they begin to soften. Stir in the rest of the scallions and the sesame seeds and turn off the heat. Serve immediately.