떡볶이. Dok, duk, dduk, ddeok… however you can spell it in English, is rice cake. It comes in different shapes and sizes and is very popular in dukguk (Rice cake soup for New Years) and this street food style dish, dukbokki. You can make the rice cakes and freeze them yourself or buy them in the refrigerated section of a Korean grocery store. For dukbokki, buy the rice sticks (rather than the flat round disks) which look like this:
There’s even a picture of dukbokki in the upper right hand corner 🙂
There are so many variations of this simple dish, which is filling (as it is mostly rice cake), spicy, tangy and a little sweet. The other main ingredients are go chu jang (the Korean chili paste) and water. Everything else just makes it better. Here’s what you will need for my veggie version (no anchovies or fish cake in this one).
Ingredients for 4-6 people
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 packet of rice cake sticks or about 1lb
1/2 piece of dried kelp (optional)
4-6 shitake mushrooms, sliced
3 or 4 spring onions, cut into large pieces
2-3 tbs go chu jang
1 tsp sugar
splash soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 onion, sliced
handful fresh spinach
water as needed
1/2 block of tofu, cut into small squares (optional)
sesame seeds for garnish
1 spring onion, sliced finely for garnish
1) I have seen Korean soup broth frequently made with dried anchovies and dried kelp, so for a veggie version, heat up the 1 1/2 cup vegetable stock to boiling, add the dried kelp and simmer for a few minutes. One sip of this simple concoction alone sends me back to Korea! Remove the dried kelp when soft and has released its flavor into the broth. If you don’t have dried kelp that’s ok. Skip to step 2.
2) Soak the rice cakes in water about half an hour. Then strain and set aside.
3) Add the minced garlic and shitake mushrooms to the vegetable stock and simmer for a couple minutes. Then add the onion, soaked rice cakes, go chu jang, soy sauce, sugar, black pepper and mix well.
4) Simmer for about 10 or 15 minutes and then add in the spinach and green onions and simmer another 5-10 minutes. Sometimes dubokki has fish cakes added to it. If you want some extra protein, add tofu instead.
5) Taste a rice cake and if it is tender and chewy, the dukbokki is done. The sauce should have thickened up and be nice and glossy. You can always add in a little more water if the rice cakes need more cooking or you want more sauce. Add more go chu jang or red pepper flakes if you want it spicier!
6) Serve with the sliced spring onion and sesame seeds.