What is Tteokbokki?
Tteokbokki (떡볶이) or sometimes spelled dukbokki, is Korean rice cakes in spicy sauce. It is one of the most popular street foods associated with Korea due to its recognizable bright, red color. Many vendors in temporary tarp tents serve this from gas-heated pans with varying levels of spiciness. You can find dukbokki in popular shopping areas from street food vendors or in restaurants due to its prevalence and popularity.
The base of dukbokki is a anchovy broth that is thickened with red pepper sauce, or gochujang, and from the rice cake, or dukk, itself. The resulting sauce is a mix of salty, sweet, and spicy that will rock your palate. After the dukk soaks up the sauce, they plump up and fish cake and sliced onions are added for extra flavor. Other popular add-ins include instant ramen, boiled eggs, American cheese, and a blood sausage called sundae.
Street vendors often serve dukbokki in disposable bowls or cups for a quick on-the-go snack as you’re walking through the bustling streets of Seoul. The texture is a little slimy from the thickened sauce and a very chewy rice cake is the star of the dish. Some foreigners may be surprised by the unique texture of dukbokki and the intense spiciness of the sauce so it’s best to err on the side of caution when choosing a spiciness level.
Korea Trip Guide recommends you visit Korea for an authentic dukbokki experience while strolling through Seoul or another city but here’s a basic recipe if you want to try making it yourself!
How to Make Tteokbokki?
- 6 Cups Water
- 1 pack Korean Rice Cake (dukk)
- 6-10 Large Dried Anchovies (20 Small)
- 1 sheet of kelp (optional)
- 2 Tbs Sugar
- 5 Splashes Soy Sauce
- 3 Tbs Red Pepper Paste (or to taste)
- 1 Pack Frozen Fish Cake
- ½ medium onion sliced
- 2 stalks of green onion, chopped
- Open a packet of frozen rice cake and soak in water for 20-30 minutes to defrost and soften.
- Defrost frozen fish cake so that it is cuttable. Cut into large bite-sized pieces.
- Bring 6 cups of water to boil with the anchovies and simmer for 15 minutes. For extra flavor, throw in the kelp as well.
- Remove anchovies from the water and dispose. You can keep the kelp in the water but cut them into smaller, bite-sized pieces.
- Add sugar, soy sauce, and red pepper paste. Stir until dissolved.
- Add in softened rice cakes, fish cake, and onion and stir occasionally to prevent sticking. The rice cakes should plump up as they absorb the sauce. The onion and fish cake will soften as it cooks.
- Stir until sauce thickens and comes to a low boil or simmer–about 15-20 minutes.
- Top off with scallions.