One of the most popular dishes and streetfoods of Korea, tteokbokki, is a must try if you enjoy Korean cuisine. The rice cakes are satisfyingly chewy and tossed with fishcakes and hardboiled eggs, all glazed in a savory, sweet, and spicy sauce.
What is tteokbokki
Tteokbokki (떡볶이), also known interchangeably as ddukbokki and topokki, is a popular Korean rice cake dish tossed in a gochujang based sauce that's balanced between savory, sweet, and spicy. Often time, you'll find tteokbokki being served with Korean fried fishcakes, hardboiled eggs, and green onions all mixed in the sweet, spicy sauce.
The right rice cake
Unlike other Asian rice cakes, tteokbokki rice cakes are traditionally cylindrical in shape and known as tteokmyeon or tteokbokki teok, literally translating to "rice cake noodles" or "rice cake for tteokbokki". This type of rice cake tends to better accommodate how tteokbokki is kept in a hot sauce. So even after a few hours of the rice cake staying in the hot sauce, it will keep the texture of being pleasantly chewy on the inside while, soft on the outside. Plus, cylinder rice cakes are much easier to snack on with a toothpick or skewer. 😉
What's normally in tteokbokki
Tteokbokki is a pretty flexible dish when it comes to the things you can add to it. Most commonly, you'd find Korean fried fishcakes, hardboiled eggs, green onions, and cabbage in the mix. This combination is most common at restaurants and Korean streetfood booths. However, don't limit yourself to just those extra vegetables!
We usually add whatever vegetables we have in our fridge, which are usually enoki mushrooms, portobello mushrooms, napa cabbage, and sometimes zucchini and squash. It's really up to your preference.
Korean fried fishcake is the way to go
I know there are a ton of difference fish cakes out there, but for tteokbokki, you need the Korean fried fishcakes. They usually come in sheets and located in the freezer aisle of most Asian markets.
Other fishcakes, like those for ramen with the pink spiral pattern, are steamed. These Korean fried fish cakes, like the name suggests, are fried and comes in sheets rather than a cylindrical or dome mold. They give tteokbokki that iconic, mild seafood flavor that you don't want to do without, especially if you're not using anchovy broth.
Anchovy broth or not
This is a a heavy discussion, haha. Korean moms and grandmas would probably not be happy if you don't use some anchovy broth to layer up on flavor. But, sometimes we just want to be lazy peeps and still enough tasty food. So, we say, it's not necessary to make anchovy broth for tteokbokki, but if you don't mind going the extra step, feel free to step up the game and impress some eomeoni (mother) and ajumma (grandma or elder ladies).
To make anchovy broth, combine 1 cup of water, 3-4 pieces of dried kelp (2-3 inches in size), and 3-6 pieces of anchovies (depending on the size: small, medium, or large) into a small pot of saucepan. Bring it up to a simmer and let the broth simmer for 5-10 minutes. DON'T boil the broth or the kelp will likely become slimy. Strain the broth and use immediately or stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. You can freeze the broth for up to 2 months if you wish, but because it's so simple to make, we like to make it when we need it.
Hardboiled egg conundrum
There are several ways to make hardboiled eggs. One of the most common method is to place the eggs into a pot, fill it with water, bring it to a boil then cut the heat and set a timer for 12 minutes.
Personally, I don't always get perfectly cooked eggs using that method. Instead, I prefer to bring a pot of water to a boil, gently place each egg into the boiling water, then let the eggs boil for 10 to 12 minutes, depending on how hardboiled of an egg I want. Of course, immediately after either of these method, do drain the eggs and run them under cold water to prevent the eggs from overcooking.
If you're looking for other Korean treats and sweets, you may like these:
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- 2 pound rice cake , cylindrical
- 6 large eggs
- 6½ cup water (or anchovy broth)
- ½ cup gochujang (or Korean red chili paste)
- 2 Tablespoon gochugaru (or Korean red chili flakes)
- 2 Tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1½ Tablespoon soy sauce
- ½ Tablespoon Kosher salt (or to taste)
- 14 oz Korean fish cake , cut into bite size pieces (about 4 sheets)
- ¼ head cabbage , roughly cut into 1-2 inch pieces)
- 2 Tablespoon cornstarch (for slurry)
- Toasted sesame seed (optional for garnish)
- Green onion (optional for garnish)
- Place all the rice cake into a large bowl and filled with enough water to cover it. Let the rice cake soak for about 10 minutes to help soften it up.
- Bring a small pot of water to a boil and gently place the 6 eggs into the boiling water. Set a timer for 10-12 minutes (depending on the degree of hard boil you want), and let the eggs boil. When the timer is up, rinse the eggs in cold water to stop the cooking. Once the eggs are cool enough to handle, peel the eggs. Set aside until needed.*The cooking time for these eggs are based on eggs right out of the fridge. If your eggs have been sitting out or at room temperature, decrease the cook time as needed. Also, a 10 minute boil results in a just hardboiled egg (so the yolk is kind of between a medium and hardboiled). An 11 -12 minute cook time results in a fully hardboiled egg.*
- While waiting for the rice cake to soak and the eggs to boil, combine the ½ cup water, gochujang, gochugaru, sugar, soy sauce, and salt into a pot, large enough to accommodate all the rice cakes. Mix the sauce a bit to break up and help the gochujang dissolve and bring the sauce to a simmer over medium high heat. Let the sauce simmer for about 5-10 minutes.
- Once the sauce has simmered for a bit, drain the rice cake and add it to the sauce. Let the rice cake simmer in the sauce for 2-3 minutes while stirring constantly. Add the chopped cabbage, fishcakes, and hardboiled eggs to the rice cake and let it simmer for about 3 minutes to slightly soften the cabbage and warm everything up.
- Add about 1 Tablespoon of cool water to the cornstarch and mix until combined. Drizzle the cornstarch slurry into the hot tteokbokki sauce while stirring and let the mixture simmer for a minute to thicken the sauce.
- Enjoy the tteokbokki while it's hot with a couple sprinkles of sesame seeds and sliced green onions!
- This recipe serves 6 people as snacks/sides, for entrees, it serves 4 people.
- Tteokbokki is a really flexible dish in terms of what extra stuff you can add to it. This recipe is a basic recipe with just rice cakes, fishcake, cabbage, and the hardboiled eggs. So feel free to throw in mushrooms, onions, all the extra goodies you'd like.
- There are different ways to make hardboiled eggs. Most start the eggs with cold water and bring it to a boil. The time listed above is my preferred way. Just bring the water to a boil then add the eggs. Just be VERY gently when you place the eggs in the water because even a tiny crack in the shell will result in the eggs leaking. So use a spoon or something you can gently lower the eggs into the water with.