This Spicy Carbonara Tteokbokki is a fusion dish that gives a modern, creamy spin on the popular Korean street food. Super addictive!
Apparently, I’m not the only one missing the South Korean street food life. With the idea of travel up in the air thanks to the current situation in the world, it’s interesting that my body would react by craving South Korean street food. I don’t think I’ve ever craved it as much as in the last few months. Now that I’m counting, I realize I actually managed to make five different kinds of South Korean street foods in the last few weeks; the latest of which is this Spicy Carbonara Tteokbokki. Ironically, this is the first one I’m sharing, because people have been sending me messages about the recipe on Facebook and Instagram.
Technically speaking, the Spicy Carbonara Tteokbokki isn’t a “street food”. Personally, I’ve never seen this being sold in a street stall so I never got to try it. I just know this fusion tteokbokki dish exists, and it’s mostly found in snack diners. But since it is inspired by a popular Korean street food, I suppose we can lump it in there. While it is called ‘carbonara’ to make it easier to remember, this isn’t a carbonara in the traditional sense. There is no egg in sight here. Just lots of cream and milk, some cheese and black pepper. The pasta part is replaced with the tteok, but you can re-substitute part of it with pasta if you wish. (Though tteok itself is very filling!)
This Spicy Carbonara Tteokbokki trend most recently took on a new life when Samyang introduced their ready-to-eat, microwavable Carbonara Tteokbokki in that little pink container. I’ve never tried it so I can’t really compare, but after discovering this recipe, I don’t have any excuse to buy the instant stuff anymore. This dish couldn’t be easier to make! I’m willing to bet the difference in quality and taste is pretty huge. Just by using good milk and good cream, you’re halfway to satisfying your cravings in the best way already. Oh, and did I mention you can customize the ingredients?
This Spicy Carbonara Tteokbokki recipe is truly uncomplicated. All you need to do is a bit of stirring around, so the thing that requires a bit more thought is perhaps the add-in’s. The original recipe at the Miss Happy Belly blog uses a lot of the add-in’s you might find in an actual carbonara dish. Bacon for one. She also added in mushrooms, which I would recommend for more flavor. Since I didn’t have any at this time, I just skipped it and added more salt and pepper to flavor the dish.
I generally prefer a combination of one meat and four veggies for my add-in’s. I suppose this is my way of making this creamy dish a bit more “healthy”, but you can feel free to switch it up! For this particular day, I used Korean cocktail sausages instead of bacon, and I used a combination of broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and bell pepper.
For the tteok, I used those frozen ones found in all the Korean marts. I don’t have a preferred brand since they all seem to be the same. One thing you need to remember when using frozen tteok is that you need to soak them in water for at least 20 minutes before use. This removes any excess starch and pre-softens your tteok in preparation for cooking. A softened tteok cooks more easily and absorbs more flavor, so don’t skip this step. You don’t need to thaw the frozen tteok. Just soak them straight from the freezer for at least 20 minutes, then drain the water when ready to cook.
Now that we’ve talked about the prep work, it’s time to get cooking! We start by melting the butter in a pan over medium heat, and then stir-frying the garlic in it until fragrant. Then we add in the bacon (or in my case, the sausages) and sauté until the meat starts to brown. We want the butter to become flavored by that garlic and sausage so it will permeate the sauce later on. In goes the bell peppers, and we cook it a couple of minutes to let the flavors intensify. (The mushroom is supposed to go in with the bell peppers.)
Now we pour in our cream and milk. For this, I used equal parts milk and cream, but you can also adjust the ratio of the milk and cream to your liking. Mostly, you can use more milk than cream for a less thick sauce if that’s what you prefer, but I don’t recommend using more cream. It might become TOO much.
Give the mixture a little stir and add in your softened tteok. Once you’ve got your tteok in, you have to remember to mix it occasionally throughout the cooking process. This is to prevent sticking, especially to the bottom of the pan.
Up next is the veggies, which you want to mix gently to distribute, not to break apart. Leave the mixture be for a bit. Once the mixture begins to boil, lower the heat. Now stir in the grated parmesan. I just used the pre-grated version for this. The moment the parmesan melts into the mixture, you’ll see that the sauce will thicken significantly. Leave the sauce to simmer for a bit, stirring occasionally to prevent the mixture from burning and the tteok from sticking anywhere. You’ll want to check at this point if your tteok has fully softened and cooked through. You can stick one with a fork if you like. I generally just press the tteok against the side of the pan to gauge.
Finally, we add in the gochujang, salt, and pepper. I added a full 3 Tablespoons of gochujang because I like spicy stuff, but you can dial it down to 1 or 2 Tablespoons. Start with the smaller amount, then taste the sauce and adjust. It’s easier to add than to remove an ingredient once it’s in there. If you want to omit the gochujang for a plain Carbonara Tteokbokki, you can do that too, but personally I don’t recommend this. In my opinion, the addition of the Korean red pepper paste helps keep the richness of the dish balanced.
Now all you need to do is to make sure the ingredients are evenly incorporated and the sauce is one color. It will be lighter in color if you use less gochujang of course. Leave it to bubble for a couple of minutes more, until the sauce looks fairly thick and coats each and every piece of tteok without sliding off. Don’t overdo this step because we don’t want the sauce to thicken TOO much and clog our throats. We also don’t want our tteok to be disgustingly squishy-soft. The chewiness is very important!
Once you’re satisfied with the sauce, take it off the heat and place in a serving dish. You can top with more grated cheese but I only like to top mine with some chives.
THAT’S IT! TIME TO DIG IN! On the off chance you have leftovers, store in the fridge in an airtight container, but reheat only on the stovetop. I don’t recommend microwaving. If your household is anything like mine though, leftovers aren’t going to be a problem. The argument will be who gets to wipe off all that remaining sauce on the plate clean.
As for me, I am a fan of the classic tteokbokki through and through, so I wasn’t expecting to fall head over heels for this Spicy Carbonara Tteokbokki. Heck, I actually don’t tend to enjoy super creamy dishes in the first place, but boy did this dish totally change my mind! I made this out of curiosity, but even I have to admit this is absolutely delicious! The creamy and spicy sauce coats the tteok beautifully, and the flavors are quite indulgent but still SUPER enjoyable. Never thought I’d see the day I would call a cream-based dish addictive!
Spicy Carbonara Tteokbokki
For the main ingredients
- 500 grams fresh or frozen tteok [떡], soaked in water for at least 20 minutes to soften
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- 2 Tablespoons minced garlic
- 4 strips uncooked bacon, chopped OR 6 pieces Korean cocktail sausages, sliced
- 10 fresh or canned button mushrooms, sliced*
- 1 bell pepper, diced
- 200 mL heavy cream
- 200 mL whole milk
- 12 broccoli florets or an equivalent mix of veggies, I used a broccoli, cauliflower, and carrot mix
- 4 Tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
- 2 to 3 Tablespoons gochujang [고추장] red pepper paste, depending on taste
- Pinch of pepper
- Pinch of salt
- 2 stalks green onion or chives, chopped
- Additional cheese, for topping (optional)
- To a large pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add garlic and sauté for a few minutes until fragrant. Add the bacon or sausage, whichever you're using, then sauté a few minutes until they start to brown.
- Add in the mushrooms* and bell peppers. Sauté until coated with garlic and butter and cook a few minutes to allow the flavors to intensify.
- Pour in the cream and the milk, followed by the tteok. Stir the mixture frequently to keep the tteok from sticking to the pan's sides and bottom, and also to keep anything from burning. Add in the broccoli or whatever vegetable mix you have chosen, then gently mix to distribute. Allow the sauce to come to a gentle boil then lower the heat.
- Add in the parmesan cheese and stir to melt. The cream will begin to thicken at this point. Stir occasionally but let the sauce simmer gently until the tteok have softened and cooked through.
- Add in the gochujang, salt, and pepper. Mix well until the sauce becomes an even red-orange hue. Let it bubble for another minute or two. Don't let it come to a boil or the sauce will thicken too much. You want the sauce to be just thick enough to coat your tteok without sliding off. Use a fork to poke the tteok to make sure it's perfectly cooked, then remove pan from heat.
- Transfer to a serving dish, then top with green onions or chives, as well as some grated cheese if you're feeling extra indulgent. (I didn't think it was necessary.) Serve immediately. In case of leftovers, reheat on the stovetop and not the microwave.
If you want to try my favorite recipe for the classic tteokbokki, you can watch the video below or head over to this link!
All images and videos on this blog are owned by The Tummy Train and Clarisse Panuelos. Unauthorized use of content, removal of watermark, or edit and reupload is prohibited and will constitute theft.