What is Tteokbokki?
Tteokbokki (pronounced duck-bo-kee) is one of my absolute favorite Korean dishes. Sometimes you’ll see it spelled ddeokbokki, topokki, or dukboki. But, they are all just different ways of translating the same thing. It’s a popular Korean street food, so it’s common to find vendors on busy street corners in Seoul dishing out this spicy on-the-go snack. It is a beloved Korean dish made up of rice cakes in a spicy sweet chili sauce. Tteokbokki is easy to eat, easy to walk with, and is the perfect bite-size snack to tame your appetite.
What’s in Tteokbokki?
There are lots of variations on this dish, but the one thing they have in common are the rice cakes.
On a street corner, you might just get the rice cakes in chili sauce. At a restaurant, you might get the rice cakes plus a whole lot more: fish cakes, seafood, vermicelli noodles. It’s a little different wherever you get it.
The version that I’m going to make is on the simpler side: just rice cakes and fish cakes in chili broth. Fish cakes give a second texture (more spongy than chewy) and add some umami.
These long cylindrical rice cakes are chewy and soak up lots of flavor.
Fish cakes add a second texture and an extra punch of brininess. I buy these frozen in big long sheets. Once they cook and soften, I cut them into smaller 2 x 1 inch strips.
The rice and fish cakes are really just a vehicle for the star of the dish: the rich and spicy chili sauce.
It starts with a simple anchovy stock made from dried anchovies, kelp, and fish cakes. Korean red chili paste (gochujang) and chili flakes (gochujagu) are then added to the stock for heat, spice, and depth of flavor.
How do you eat Tteokbokki?
Tteokbokki is a great party appetizer and is commonly served at large gatherings because it’s so shareable. It’s served family style, so everyone can just dig in and enjoy a few bites. Nothing tames the spice like an ice cold beer, so make sure to have plenty nearby!
When enjoying Tteokbokki, my utensil of choice is the trusty toothpick: I get one rice cake, one fish cake, and swirl them around in the spicy sauce. After cooling off my palette with an ice cold drink, I dig back in.
I like to add a hard boiled egg, so when all of the rice cakes are gone, there’s an extra something at the end to soak up the remaining spicy sauce.
Tteokbokki has it all – sugar, salt, and spice all in one bite! No wonder it’s a favorite snack enjoyed by Koreans. It’s addicting, fun to share, and easy to make 😀
- 1 pound (2 cups) cylindrical rice cakes
- 8 dried anchovies, remove head and intestines (black strip in belly)
- 1 sheet dried kelp (approx 6x4inches)
- 2 fish cake sheets, thawed
- 4 cups water
- 2 Tbsp Gochujang (or more depending on your spice level)
- ½ Tbsp Gochugaru (Korean chili powder)
- ½ Tbsp granulated sugar
- Place rice cakes in hot water for 15-20 minutes while anchovy stock is being made
- Place dried anchovies, kelp, and fish cakes into 12 inch skillet. Add water and turn burner to high. When water begins to boil, turn heat to low simmer for 15 minutes
- Remove fish cakes and allow to cool. Then strain solids from stock and discard.
- Measure 1 cup of stock and place back into 12 inch skillet. Keep remaining stock for future use later.
- Turn heat to medium and add Gochujang, Gochugaru, and sugar. Mix to combine.
- Then add rice cakes and stir frequently for 5 minutes. Sauce will begin to thicken.
- Cut fish cakes into 2x1 inch strips and add to skillet. Gently toss
- Serve with hard boiled egg (optional) and garnish with scallions and sesame seeds