How to Make Tteokbokki (Korean Spicy Rice Cakes)

How to Make Tteokbokki (Korean Spicy Rice Cakes)

Author Avatar

Updated on June 6, 2024

Have you ever fancied bringing the vibrant streets of Korea into your very own kitchen? That desire certainly struck a chord with me, especially given my penchant for all things spicy.

So, I ventured into mastering the art of crafting Korean Tteokbokki. Characterised by its striking fiery red appearance courtesy of gochujang (fermented chilli paste) and those delightfully chewy rice cakes, this dish truly embodies the essence of Korean flavours.

In this blog post, I will guide you on how to make tteokbokki using straightforward ingredients and steps. Shall we begin?

What is Tteokbokki?

How to Make Tteokbokki (Korean Spicy Rice Cakes)

Tteokbokki is a popular Korean street food made from chewy rice cakes and spicy sauce. It is a staple in Korean cuisine.

I can’t get enough of Korean street food, especially tteokbokki. This spicy rice cake recipe captures the essence of authentic Korean food culture in every bite. Chewy rice cakes are simmered in a fiery red sauce made from gochujang (Korean chilli paste) and other ingredients like garlic, gochugaru (Korean chilli flakes), soy sauce, broth, and sugar. It’s a blend that turns simple ingredients into a hot and spicy dish beloved by many.

Making homemade tteokbokki has become a part of my routine when I crave something comforting yet bold in flavour. The process involves preparing the rice cakes to achieve that perfect chewy texture before bathing them in the spicy, sweet broth.

With each serving, you dive into a world where spice meets comfort—an experience shared by busy foodies who cherish Korean cuisine’s dynamic flavours. Whether enjoyed during the Korean Lunar New Year or just to satisfy a craving for spicy food, this Korean rice cake dish never fails to impress.

The History of Tteokbokki

How to Make Tteokbokki (Korean Spicy Rice Cakes)

The origins of tteokbokki can be traced back to the opulent halls of the Joseon Dynasty, where it was known as “gungjung tteokbokki” or royal court tteokbokki. This early version of the dish was a far cry from the spicy street food we know today. It was a savoury, non-spicy concoction crafted with delicate care, featuring soy sauce, tender slices of beef, and an assortment of vegetables. The rice cakes, known as “tteok,” were the same chewy delights but were often enjoyed in a refined, mild-flavoured dish that was a favoured delicacy among Korean royalty.

The royal court’s kitchens, bustling with the finest chefs of the era, prepared gungjung tteokbokki with ingredients meticulously chosen for their quality and freshness. The dish exemplified the culinary sophistication of the time, blending subtle flavours to create a meal that was both hearty and elegant. This iteration of tteokbokki was a symbol of luxury and privilege, enjoyed by kings and nobles as a testament to their refined palates and the cultural richness of the Joseon Dynasty.

Modern Transformation: The Birth of Spicy Tteokbokki

Fast forward to the 1950s, a time of rapid social and cultural changes in Korea. Amidst the bustling streets of post-war Seoul, a culinary revolution was about to take place. Ma Bok-rim, a pioneering street vendor, began experimenting with tteokbokki, transforming it from its royal roots into the beloved spicy version known today. She introduced gochujang, the vibrant red chilli paste that would become synonymous with the dish, adding a fiery kick that resonated with the tastes of the masses.

Ma Bok-rim’s stall became a sensation. The combination of chewy rice cakes and the spicy-sweet sauce quickly captivated locals, turning her version of tteokbokki into an instant hit. This transformation marked a significant shift in the dish’s history. It moved from the exclusive tables of royalty to the lively streets of Seoul, becoming an accessible and beloved comfort food for people from all walks of life.

The introduction of spicy tteokbokki by Ma Bok-rim not only revolutionised the dish but also highlighted the adaptability and resilience of Korean cuisine. In a time of economic hardship and rapid modernisation, the spicy version of tteokbokki provided an affordable and satisfying meal that could be enjoyed by anyone. Street vendors across Seoul began to adopt and adapt the recipe, each adding their unique twist, further embedding tteokbokki into the heart of Korean street food culture.

The Symbol of Adaptability and Appeal

The journey of tteokbokki from a royal delicacy to a street food staple underscores its remarkable adaptability and widespread appeal. It reflects the broader narrative of Korean food, which is characterised by its ability to evolve while preserving its cultural essence. Tteokbokki’s transformation is not merely a change in flavour but a testament to the resilience and innovation inherent in Korean culinary traditions.

This evolution also mirrors the socio-economic shifts in Korea. From the halls of royalty to the streets lined with pojangmacha (street food stalls), tteokbokki’s journey is emblematic of the country’s dynamic history. It showcases how a dish can transcend its origins to become a beloved part of everyday life, bridging the gap between the past and the present, the elite and the common people.

Today, tteokbokki continues to evolve, embracing new ingredients and cooking methods, yet it remains deeply rooted in its rich history. It serves as a culinary bridge, connecting generations and offering a taste of Korea’s heritage to the world. Whether enjoyed in the vibrant markets of Seoul or in a Korean restaurant halfway across the globe, tteokbokki’s story of transformation and enduring popularity is a flavourful narrative of cultural continuity and change.

Its Significance in Korean Cuisine

As we explore the significance of tteokbokki in Korean cuisine, it’s important to note that this beloved dish holds a special place as an iconic part of Korean street food culture.

Tteokbokki is not only known for its fiery red colour and chewy rice cakes but also for its ability to showcase the bold and spicy flavours that are quintessential to Korean cooking. This traditional comfort food has evolved into a symbol of Korean culinary identity, captivating both locals and global food enthusiasts alike with its rich history and unmistakable taste.

Tteokbokki’s enduring popularity during festive occasions like the Korean Lunar New Year underscores its cultural importance, weaving itself into the fabric of celebratory traditions. Beyond being just a dish, tteokbokki represents a source of pride for Koreans, highlighting their penchant for creating dishes that are deeply rooted in tradition yet continue to evolve with time. Its versatile nature allows it to adapt to various palates while remaining true to its origins, making it an integral part of not only Korean recipes but also the overall experience of Korean dining.

Fun Facts and Traditions Surrounding Tteokbokki

How to Make Tteokbokki (Korean Spicy Rice Cakes)

Tteokbokki is a staple dish during the Korean Lunar New Year, symbolising prosperity and good fortune. It’s also a popular street food in Korea, often enjoyed as a communal meal with friends and family. The addictive combination of chewy rice cakes and fiery gochujang sauce has made tteokbokki an iconic part of Korean cuisine, earning its place as one of the country’s most beloved comfort foods.

Additionally, it’s interesting to note that tteokbokki isn’t just enjoyed for its taste; it holds cultural significance rooted in traditional Korean celebrations.

The tradition of eating tteokbokki has expanded beyond Korea with its growing popularity worldwide. As more people embark on culinary adventures exploring different cultures’ cuisines, tteokbokki stands out as a must-try dish for everyone seeking new experiences through food exploration.

Recipe for Tteokbokki (Serves 2)

How to Make Tteokbokki (Korean Spicy Rice Cakes)

Here is my tried recipe for tteokbokki and some tips to make sure you achieve the perfect spicy rice cakes:

Ingredients

  • Rice Cakes (Tteokbokki Tteok): 200 grams
  • Fish Cakes (Eomuk): 100 grams, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • Water: 2 cups
  • Gochujang (Korean Red Chili Paste): 2 tablespoons
  • Gochugaru (Korean Red Chili Flakes): 1 tablespoon
  • Soy Sauce: 1 tablespoon
  • Sugar: 1 tablespoon
  • Minced Garlic: 1 teaspoon
  • Green Onions: 2 stalks, chopped (both green and white parts)
  • Hard-boiled eggs: 2, peeled (optional)
  • Sesame Oil: 1 teaspoon
  • Sesame Seeds: 1 teaspoon (optional, for garnish)

Instructions

  1. If using refrigerated or frozen rice cakes, soak them in warm water for about 10-15 minutes to soften them. Fresh rice cakes can be used directly.
  2. In a bowl, combine gochujang, gochugaru, soy sauce, sugar, and minced garlic. Mix well until the ingredients form a smooth sauce.
  3. In a large pan or shallow pot, pour 2 cups of water and bring it to a gentle boil over medium heat.
  4. Add the sauce mixture to the boiling water and stir well to dissolve.
  5. Add the softened rice cakes to the pan, stirring to coat them evenly with the sauce. Let them cook for about 5-7 minutes until they start to soften.
  6. Add the fish cakes and continue to simmer for another 5-7 minutes. The sauce should thicken slightly, and the rice cakes should become chewy and tender.
  7. If using hard-boiled eggs, add them to the pan during the last few minutes of cooking to heat through.
  8. Stir in the chopped green onions, reserving some for garnish.
  9. Drizzle the sesame oil over the tteokbokki and give it a final stir.
  10. Transfer the tteokbokki to serving plates or bowls.
  11. Garnish with a sprinkle of sesame seeds and additional chopped green onions if desired.
  12. Serve hot and enjoy this delicious and spicy Korean street food!

Tips

  • Adjusting Spice Levels: For a milder version, reduce the amount of gochugaru or gochujang. Conversely, for a spicier kick, you can increase these ingredients or add a pinch of red pepper flakes.
  • Adding Vegetables: You can add vegetables like cabbage, carrots, or onions for extra flavour and nutrition. Add them along with the fish cakes.
  • Cheese Tteokbokki: For a cheesy twist, add a handful of shredded mozzarella cheese on top of the hot tteokbokki just before serving, allowing it to melt slightly.

This recipe provides a classic, flavourful experience of tteokbokki, perfect for enjoying the bold and spicy taste of Korean cuisine at home.

Serving and Storing Tteokbokki

How to Make Tteokbokki (Korean Spicy Rice Cakes)

Here are some tips to serve and store your homemade tteokbokki to get the full experience of the traditional recipe:

Serving Tteokbokki

To serve tteokbokki, ensure it is hot directly from the pan. Its vibrant red colour and the enticing aroma of spicy gochujang make it an appealing dish to present. Use shallow bowls or plates, allowing the sauce to pool around the rice cakes and other ingredients for a visually appealing presentation. If you’ve included hard-boiled eggs, slice them in half and place them strategically around the dish for added visual appeal.

Garnishing tteokbokki is straightforward. A sprinkle of sesame seeds and freshly chopped green onions add a touch of colour and texture. For an extra burst of flavour, drizzle a small amount of sesame oil over the dish just before serving. Tteokbokki pairs well with additional side dishes, such as pickled radish (danmuji) or kimchi, which help balance the spiciness of the dish. Serving it with a side of steamed white rice or additional banchan (Korean side dishes) can make for a more substantial meal. A cold, refreshing drink like barley tea (boricha) or a sweet, chilled beverage such as milk or a fruit-based drink can help soothe the palate between bites.

Storing Tteokbokki

If you have leftover tteokbokki, let it cool to room temperature before storing it. Transfer the leftovers to an airtight container, ensuring the rice cakes are covered with the sauce to prevent them from drying out. Store the container in the refrigerator, where tteokbokki can be kept for up to 2-3 days. When ready to eat the leftovers, reheat the tteokbokki in a pan over medium heat. Add a small amount of water (about 2-3 tablespoons) to the pan to help rehydrate the sauce and rice cakes, stirring gently until the rice cakes are heated through and regain their chewy texture. Be careful not to overcook them, as they can become too soft.

Freezing tteokbokki is not recommended, as the texture of the rice cakes can change significantly upon thawing, becoming less chewy and more mushy. However, if you must freeze them, place the cooled tteokbokki in a freezer-safe container, ensuring the rice cakes are submerged in the sauce to protect them from freezer burn. When ready to eat, thaw the tteokbokki in the refrigerator overnight and follow the reheating instructions mentioned earlier.

Tips for Best Results

For the best experience, tteokbokki is best enjoyed fresh. The texture of the rice cakes is optimal when they are freshly cooked, retaining their characteristic chewiness. Upon reheating, ensure the sauce remains thick and coats the rice cakes well. If it becomes too watery, let it simmer for a bit longer to reduce and thicken. To help maintain the chewy texture of the rice cakes, avoid over-soaking them before cooking and be mindful of reheating times.

By following these serving and storing tips, you can ensure that your tteokbokki remains delicious and enjoyable, whether you’re indulging in it fresh or savouring leftovers. This way, you can continue to enjoy the bold, spicy flavours of this iconic Korean dish even after its initial preparation.

Variations and Twists on Traditional Tteokbokki

How to Make Tteokbokki (Korean Spicy Rice Cakes)

Tteokbokki’s beauty lies in its adaptability. While the classic gochujang-based sauce is beloved, there’s a world of flavour variations to explore. Here are some exciting twists to tantalise your taste buds:

Rabokki (Ramen + Tteokbokki)

Rabokki is a beloved fusion of tteokbokki and instant ramen noodles, creating a hearty and satisfying dish. The addition of ramen noodles introduces a new texture that contrasts delightfully with the chewy rice cakes. As the noodles soak up the spicy gochujang-based sauce, they become richly infused with their robust flavours, providing a comforting and filling meal.

This variation is particularly popular among students and young adults, often enjoyed as a quick and affordable snack or meal. And trust me, you are going to get full. The versatility of rabokki allows for numerous additional ingredients, such as boiled eggs, vegetables, or even cheese, making it a customisable favourite. The blend of chewy rice cakes and slurpy noodles ensures every bite is a burst of flavour and texture.

Cheese Tteokbokki

Cheese tteokbokki adds a creamy and indulgent twist to the classic dish. By topping the hot tteokbokki with shredded mozzarella or similar melting cheese, you create a rich, gooey texture that beautifully balances the spiciness of the gochujang sauce. As the cheese melts, it forms a delightful coating over the rice cakes, adding a layer of creamy decadence.

This variation has gained immense popularity, especially among those who enjoy a fusion of spicy and creamy flavours. The cheese not only mellows the heat but also adds a comforting, hearty element to the dish. It’s a perfect choice for those looking to enjoy the boldness of tteokbokki with a milder, richer taste.

Seafood Tteokbokki

Seafood tteokbokki elevates the traditional dish by incorporating a variety of seafood, such as shrimp, squid, and mussels. The seafood infuses the spicy sauce with an additional layer of umami, enhancing the overall depth of flavour. The combination of chewy rice cakes and tender seafood pieces creates a satisfying textural contrast.

This variation is especially popular in coastal regions and among seafood lovers. It offers a luxurious twist on the classic, making it suitable for special occasions or when you’re in the mood for a more refined version of tteokbokki. The natural sweetness of the seafood pairs beautifully with the fiery sauce, resulting in a balanced and flavourful dish.

Rose Tteokbokki

This is the TikTok trend, guys! Rose tteokbokki blends the spicy gochujang sauce with a splash of heavy cream, resulting in a milder, creamier version. This adaptation is perfect for those who prefer a less fiery yet equally flavourful experience. The addition of cream transforms the sauce into a silky, rose-coloured concoction that clings to the rice cakes beautifully.

This variation offers a unique take on the traditional dish, providing a delicate balance between heat and creaminess. It’s particularly appealing to those who might find the original too spicy but still want to enjoy the iconic flavours of tteokbokki. Rose tteokbokki is a testament to the versatility of Korean cuisine, allowing for creative adaptations while maintaining its core essence.

Jjajang Tteokbokki

Jjajang tteokbokki swaps the traditional red chilli paste for jjajang, or black bean paste, creating a unique black bean sauce tteokbokki. This variation offers a savoury, slightly sweet flavour profile, differing significantly from the original spicy version. The deep, rich flavours of the black bean sauce provide a satisfying alternative for those seeking variety.

This twist on tteokbokki highlights the adaptability of the dish to different flavour profiles while retaining its signature chewy texture. Jjajang tteokbokki is particularly favoured by those who enjoy the robust, earthy flavours of black bean paste. It’s a delicious way to explore the diverse range of tastes within Korean cuisine, offering a comforting and hearty meal.

Bulgogi Tteokbokki

Bulgogi tteokbokki combines classic rice cakes with marinated bulgogi or Korean BBQ beef, adding a protein-rich element to the dish. The sweet and savoury bulgogi sauce complements the spicy tteokbokki sauce, creating a harmonious blend of flavours. The tender, flavourful beef enhances the overall appeal, making it a substantial and satisfying meal.

This variation is perfect for meat lovers and those looking to add more protein to their tteokbokki. The addition of bulgogi transforms the dish into a more filling and nutritious option, suitable for lunch or dinner. It’s a delightful fusion of two beloved Korean dishes, showcasing the culinary creativity that defines Korean cuisine.

After tasting tteokbokki, you’ll be hooked on this fiery yet comforting Korean dish. The blend of chewy rice cakes and spicy-sweet gochujang sauce is a taste sensation. I invite you to embark on a culinary journey to Korea and experience the joy of making tteokbokki in your own kitchen, savouring its rich history and cultural significance along the way.

Share with our social media

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *