I finally found my favorite recipe for delicious tteokbokki that takes me right back to South Korea!
Going back to work feels a little strange under this so-called “new normal”. I can’t help but marvel at how other countries are managing this crisis more effectively, because Lord knows how messy it’s been over here. All of us have to adapt an ‘it is what it is’ attitude because we don’t really have a choice. We’re all pretty much on our own in this battle at the end of the day. Regardless of my personal thoughts and feelings, it’s hard to deny that things are going to go through a big transition from this point on. Vacations are also not going to be the same.
I can’t even imagine what travel is going to look like from now on, despite being told about the measures airlines are planning to take. Until the vaccines are rolled out, it’s a little scary to imagine going anywhere far from home anytime soon. (Annoyingly, the airline I booked for a supposed trip to London this August won’t refund our tickets just yet.)
I do find a slight measure of comfort despite being forced to stay grounded however. The Internet has really been a blessing for all of us who have diligently stayed at home in the last few months. Through it, many of us have learned to cook all sorts of things and all sorts of dishes from around the world. It makes the yearnings and wanderlust just slightly less painful.
Looking back on the last two months, I realized I’ve made a healthy number of South Korean recipes, most of them of the street food variety. It doesn’t exactly mean that I miss South Korea the most, but I certainly miss a lot of their food. I am a huge fan of South Korean cuisine, and even the simpler fare, such as the classic tteokbokki 떡볶이, brings me a lot of joy. It’s a good thing it’s easy to cook.
I’ve made Maangchi’s classic tteokbokki recipe before, and though that one was good, this is the closest one in terms of taste to the traditional ttekobokki I always buy in the streets of South Korea. Perhaps it’s because I’ve learned how to make a properly tasty soup stock using my anchovy powder since that time. Perhaps that has made all the difference. It’s just that with this tteokbokki recipe, I feel that the ratio of the seasoning ingredients is magic. To my tastebuds, the flavor of the sauce is almost nostalgic. It tastes so similar to the actual street food version all I need is a black plastic bag and the tteokbokki can pass for something bought from an ahjumma manning her pojangmacha.
Am I now that ahjumma? Lol.
This recipe is one half of the newest video I just shared on YouTube about 2 delicious ways to enjoy tteokbokki. There’s this classic way and the Spicy Carbonara way. Frankly, you don’t have to take sides here. Buy a 1 kilogram package of frozen tteok or rice cake so you can make both, because I’m pretty sure you’ll find something to adore in both. Especially if you’re a tteokbokki lover like me! Variety is the spice of life, ya know?
Anyway, for this post we’re going to talk about my favorite classic tteokbokki recipe. Nothing about this is hard, and every ingredient is readily available in your local Korean grocery store. When I made this recipe, I actually used a frozen cheese-filled tteok that I came across. (Forgot to snap a pic of the package!) So instead of topping my classic tteokbokki with cheese like I often do these days, I decided to let the special filled tteok add that bit of savoriness.
A really important tip I can give you about cooking frozen tteok is to soak them in some water for about 20 minutes before cooking. I usually do this with tteok straight from the freezer. This pre-soak softens the tteok so that they cook faster and more evenly, turning them chewy rather than hard. This also seems to help the tteok soak up more flavor. The add-on’s are, as you may expect, the usual eomuk, cabbage, and cocktail sausages.
Tteokbokki is a one pot affair involving stirring and boiling. To start, you place your anchovy stock inside the saucepan and add in your chili powder and paste. You can totally adjust the amount of chili powder depending on how much heat you can take. I don’t recommend going over 3 teaspoons of chili powder even if you do love spicy things, because you still want to be able to enjoy this comfortably right? Minus the runny nose and the fire in your belly?
To counteract the spice, we add some sweeteners in the form of sugar and brown rice syrup. I don’t usually have brown rice syrup on hand so I just used an extra dose of sugar. The other ingredient to complete the cast of seasonings is the soy sauce, for that needed hint of saltiness. Dishes taste best when they have that push and pull between sweet and salty, and in this case, the sugar and soy sauce are also there to keep this dish from being one dimensionally spicy.
Mix all the sauce ingredients together and let the mixture come to a gentle boil. After that, it’s time to add in the tteok and the other remaining goodies. It’s not a classic tteokbokki when there is no eomuk, but for me the cabbage and Korean cocktail sausages are a must too. The tteokbokki feels empty without them!
At this point, we want the sauce to come to a bigger boil. Make sure to stir the mixture frequently so the tteok do not stick to each other. Cook just until sauce has thickened enough to coat the tteok, and the rice cakes are fully softened and chewy. I like to test this by pressing a piece of tteok against the wall of my saucepan. Sometimes I poke it with a fork. It should be soft enough to easily poke but still have a bit of bounce or resistance. Don’t overcook the tteok and make it mushy. (Though this is kind of hard to do in my experience.)
The sauce won’t look very thick once the tteok are sufficiently soft, but after you take it off the heat and it has a chance to “rest” somewhat, you will see the sauce thicken even more. At this point, you can top the tteokbokki with chopped scallions and some shredded cheese.
As I said, since my cheese component was already inside the rice cakes, I decided not to overdo it. With or without the extra cheese, there are no words to describe how much I love the comfort of this spicy, chewy Korean favorite. If you watch Korean dramas, you will often see the characters there munching away on this street food with so much gusto. Personally, that is the exact same feeling I get when I munch on tteokbokki.
I can’t even describe in words how much I enjoy eating tteokbokki! And now that I found this recipe from Korean Bapsang, I actually don’t think I’ll bother looking elsewhere for another one. That’s a huge compliment, methinks.
Classic Spicy Tteokbokki
- 500 grams fresh or frozen tteok [떡], soaked in water for at least 20 minutes to soften
- 3 cups 720 mL anchovy broth*
- 3 tablespoons gochujang [고추장] red pepper paste
- 1 to 3 teaspoons gochugaru [고추가루] Korean red chili pepper flakes, according to preference
- 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 to 2 Tablespoons sugar, according to preference
- 1 Tablespoon corn syrup, can sub with 1 more tablespoon sugar if unavailable
- 1 Tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 sheet eomuk [어묵] fish cake, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 8 to 10 Korean cocktail sausages
- 115 grams green cabbage, sliced to 2-inch wide pieces
- 2 scallions, sliced
- Shredded mozzarella, for topping (optional)
- In a large pan, mix together anchovy broth, gochujang, gochugaru (start with 1 teaspoon and adjust to taste later on if not spicy enough for you), soy sauce, sugar, corn syrup, and minced garlic. Bring it to a boil over medium high heat, stirring to make sure all the ingredients are dissolved into the broth.
- Add in the tteok and leave the mixture to boil until the tteok softens and the sauce starts to thicken, about 8 to 10 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent tteok from sticking.
- Add in the eomuk, sausages, cabbage, and scallions, then stir to distribute. Continue to let the sauce boil another 5 minutes as you stir constantly.
- Taste the sauce to see if seasoning is okay. At this point, you can add more sugar or gochugaru. Make sure to mix well to distribute any additional seasonings. Poke the tteok with a fork to check if it's soft enough for you, then remove from heat. The sauce will continue to thicken off the heat.
- Transfer tteokbokki to a serving dish and top with mozarella, if using. Allow to melt slightly then serve right away. In case of leftovers, reheat on the stovetop and not the microwave.
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.