Tteokbokki is a delicious Korean street food made using soft, noodle-like rice cakes cooked in an umami-rich, usually spicy sauce, and served with various toppings, often including fish cakes, boiled eggs or scallions. It can be purchased from snack bars or street stalls, as well as being enjoyed at home.
The rice cakes used in tteokbokki are completely different from the crunchy snacks you might be expecting. These rice cakes are soft, chewy cylinders, made with non-glutinous rice flour and known as tteokmyeon (떡면), or rice cake noodles. They are roughly the size of penne pasta, and full of starches that melt into the sauce during cooking, giving it a thick, silky texture.
Tteokbokki sauce was originally made using soy sauce (간장), producing a non-spicy version known as gungjung tteokbokki (궁중떡볶이), which means ‘royal court tteokbokki’, as it is thought to have been enjoyed by previous generations of the Korean royal family. These days, however, tteokbokki is more commonly made using spicy gochujang (고추장), a fermented bean paste made with red chilis.
There are numerous different varieties of tteokbokki available today. Traditional toppings include boiled eggs and pan-fried dumplings known as mandu (만두), but fried fish cakes, scallions, and cabbage is also a popular combination, as are grilled short ribs known as galbi (갈비).
What does it taste like?
The flavour of tteokbokki is all in the sauce, which is deeply savoury, umami-rich, and a little sweet. Most recipes these days use gochujang paste, so there will usually be a hit of red chilli heat in there too. The rice cakes themselves add that chewy, bouncy texture you get from really good noodles, while their starches thicken the sauce, giving it a rich, silky texture.
There are many different recipes for tteokbokki. We like ours made with spicy gochujang and fish cakes for that extra umami hit, but you can experiment with your own favourite toppings. You should be able to find most of the ingredients for this recipe at your local Asian market, and many are also available to buy online.
Korean fish cakes,
5oz, washed and cut into bite-sized pieces
2 oz, thinly sliced
For the sauce
Korean anchovy soup stock,
1 ½ tbsp
Gochugaru chilli flakes,
1 tsp, toasted
1 stalk, finely chopped
Remove the tteokmyeon from their packaging, separate, and soak them in warm water for 10 minutes to soften them.
Make 2 cups of the Korean soup stock, add to a shallow pot and bring to the boil over a medium high heat. While you are waiting for the stock to boil, place the gochujang, sugar, soy sauce and gochugaru chilis into a bowl and mix them together. Once the stock has boiled, add the gochujang mixture and stir well until fully dissolved.
Next, add the rice cakes, fish cakes and onion, and continue to boil for 3 to 5 minutes, until the rice cakes are just cooked. Reduce the heat and simmer everything over a low heat for a further 2 to 4 minutes until the sauce begins to thicken.
Divide the tteokbokki into two bowls, drizzle with the sesame oil and scatter with the sesame seeds and scallions. Serve warm and enjoy.
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