Tteokbokki found its way into our hearts and onto our table. Chewy, bouncy rice cakes simmer in a sweet and spicy sauce flavored with gochugaru and gochujang to make this Korean tteokbokki recipe you’ll crave.
My affinity for tteokbokki began several years ago in a small Korean restaurant in Flagstaff, Arizona. My husband and I sat down with friends from Burma and Malaysia for a family-style meal. I fell in love with Korean food that day- piping hot stews, galbi, pungent kimchi, spices, and colorful banchan contribute to the fondness of my memory.
A spicy dish with the most intriguing texture stood out among the rest. For years, the chewiness of the rice cakes resided in my mind with no way to try it again, all because I didn’t have the foresight to ask my friends the name of the plate. Last year, I made it my mission to track down the dish, learn what I could about it, and make it at home. Well, friends, this tteokbokki recipe is the product of my long and rewarding journey.
WHAT IS TTEOKBOKKI?
Tteokbokki means stir-fried rice cakes; tteok is the word for rice cake and bokki means fried. Other names for the dish are dukbokki, topokki, or ddeokbokki. Yet, they all refer to the same popular Korean street food; savory rice cakes stew in an umami-rich broth and simmer in a spicy and sweet sauce for a tasty comfort meal you’ll love. For a more traditional approach, check out Maangchi. She is fun to watch and teach the ins and outs of cooking Korean cuisine.
WHAT YOU NEED TO MAKE THIS RECIPE
- Fish Sauce: Anchovy stock made using dried kelp and dried anchovies traditionally flavor tteokbokki; out of ease, I use chicken bouillon and fish sauce as a broth in this recipe. If you want to try out anchovy stock without all the hassle of making it from scratch you can buy one of these packets.
- Better than Bouillon: Bouillon, water, and fish sauce create a simple broth for the rice cakes to cook; use chicken stock if you prefer; I use Better than Bouillon since it’s a staple in my home.
- Rice Cakes: Chewy rice cakes or garae-tteok take on a slightly sweet flavor to balance the spice when cooked. You can use fresh, refrigerated, or frozen rice cakes in this recipe, but fresh rice cakes are always the best!
- Gochujang: Korean pepper paste called gochujang is frequently used in Korean cuisine to add sweet heat to a recipe; this paste is made with red pepper flakes, sticky rice, fermented soybean paste, and salt.
- Gochugaru: Adding heat and a slightly smoky fragrance, dried and deseeded chili peppers are the main ingredients in another Korean staple called gochugaru, or Korean chili flakes. Check the container for spice level; they are usually labeled in mild, medium, or hot to fit your specific need.
- Sugar: Sugar offsets the heat and thickens the broth.
- Scallions: Scallion whites cook in the umami-rich broth along with the tteok, whereas the scallion greens add a peppery finish.
SUBSTITUTIONS AND VARIATIONS – WHAT CAN I ADD TO TTEOKBOKKI?
- Fish Cakes: I didn’t include fish cakes in this recipe, but it’s common to do so. They are easily found in the freezer section of local Asian markets and they come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The most popular of which come in a large sheet you will need to cut down to size. Korean Bapsang has a video for tteokbokki where she walks you through how to cut fish cakes properly. Skip to 3:04 for her technique.
- Hard-Boiled Eggs
- Ramyun Noodles: Adding ramen to rice cakes is called ra-bokki.
- Cheese: Adding thick slices of cheese to tteokbokki is quickly becoming all the rage.
- Korean Dumplings or Mandu
- Bok choy, savoy cabbage, or carrots.
HOW TO MAKE TTEOKBOKKI
PREPARE THE TTEOK- Soak frozen or packaged rice cakes in hot water for 10 minutes; drain and set them aside. If using fresh rice cakes, you may skip this step.
BOIL- Add water, fish sauce, and Better than Bouillon to a saucepan; over medium-high heat, allow the broth to boil uncovered for 8 minutes.
MIX- Combine gochujang, gochugaru, and sugar, then add them to the saucepan.
COMBINE– Add the rice cakes and scallion greens to the pan with the broth. Reduce the heat and simmer. Maintain a gentle bubble for 15 minutes until the sauce thickens; stir frequently.
CHECK- Check the consistency; rice cakes should be soft and bouncy. If they haven’t reached the desired consistency, continue cooking and add more water if needed.
SERVE- Garnish with scallions greens to serve.
SEARCHING FOR MORE LIKE THIS?
If you love this recipe, we hope you will try one of these tasty meals!
- Kimchi Jjigae
- Doenjang Jiigae
- Banchan: spicy cucumber kimchi, spinach, bean sprouts, and cabbage kimchi.
WHAT TO DO WITH THE LEFTOVERS
- FRIDGE – Store leftovers in an air-tight container; it will keep in the fridge for 1-2 days. I wouldn’t go beyond that.
- REHEAT – Once refrigerated, tteokbokki hardens; for best results, I recommend adding a small amount of water before warming it on the stovetop. You may reheat the rice cakes in the microwave, but they will be denser and harder to chew.
- REPURPOSE – Toss the leftovers in ramen or add them to a stew.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
You will find fish cakes at your local Korean or Asian market; they come freshly made, refrigerated, and frozen. We live near an H-mart, a popular Korean chain, and they always have them on hand. Another place to look is Whole Foods.
I understand that not everyone handles spice the same way; to err on the side of caution, I’ll go ahead and say tteokbokki is pretty spicy. If you have a low tolerance, reduce the amount of gochujang used and eliminate the gochugaru. You can also increase the amount of bouillon used in the broth to create more balance; you’ll still have all the flavor and less of the heat coming through. If you have a bit of a sweet tooth, consider adding 1-2 teaspoons of honey or sugar as the rice cakes cook down.
Garaetteok is a combination of rice flour, tapioca flour, and salt; tapioca flour lend rice cakes their signature chewiness.
YOU SHOULD ALSO TRY:
Tteokbokki -Spicy Korean Rice Cakes
- 1 bag rice cakes, cylinder-shaped
For the Broth:
- Soak frozen or packaged rice cakes in hot water for 10 minutes; drain and set them aside. If using fresh rice cakes, you may skip this step.
- Add water, fish sauce, and Better than Bouillon to a saucepan; over medium-high heat, allow the broth to boil uncovered for 8 minutes.
- Combine gochujang, gochugaru, and sugar, then add them to the saucepan.
- Add the rice cakes and scallion greens to the pan with the broth. Reduce the heat and simmer. Maintain a gentle bubble for 15 minutes until the sauce thickens; stir frequently.
- Check the consistency; rice cakes should be soft and bouncy. If they haven’t reached the desired consistency, continue cooking and add more water if needed.
- Garnish with scallions greens to serve.
- Remove from Heat: To maintain the bounciness of the rice cakes, remove them from heat as soon as the sauce thickens and serve immediately.
- Garnish: For a glossy finish, garnish with toasted sesame oil.
- Web Story: Check out our web story for tteokbokki!