Tteokbokki (Korean Rice Cakes in Hot and Sweet Sauce)

ricecakes_pWhen I tasted tteokbokki for the first time at friends’ house, I instantly fell in love with slightly chewy, soft rice cakes laced in a fiery sweetish sauce. I still remember being ashamed of second, third – and maybe even fourth – helpings I accepted, unable to refuse something so irresistible. Luckily, other guests were not so enthusiastic and my host was more than happy to see me appreciate this popular Korean dish. I started to cook it only about a year ago and was pleasantly surprised to learn how easy and quick the process is.

The English term “rice cakes” is somehow misleading. Those who don’t eat Asian food usually think of puffed rice biscuits or imagine rice-based sweets. Moreover, what we translate as “rice cake” exists in many Asian countries, where it might have different shapes, uses and tastes. The word “dumplings” would probably be closer, but the word is used to define thin pastry sheets stuffed with different fillings. This is why, while describing the texture of Korean rice cakes (tteok (떡) ) I like to compare them to Italian gnocchi or their less known Eastern and Central counterparts (such as Polish kopytka, translated as “dumplings”). Tteok are however chewier and bouncier, the characteristics which make them so irresistible for people who love such textures. They are made with a mixture of glutionous rice flour and water, hence the delicate versatile taste. They are either cylinder-shaped (as above) or flat, oval-shaped.

Tteok are eaten in both sweet and savoury dishes. Until now I have had them only in tteokbokki, but never get tired of it. Apart from the addictive sweet and hot sauce, it usually contains also fish cake and often hard-boiled eggs. I have always put only eggs, which already make it a very filling one pot meal (and a quick one too!). Actually I find the rice cake and sauce basis quite versatile and often add some leftover chicken too.

Looking for different sauce recipes, I chose the one by Maangchi, but substituted her dried fish & konbu stock with Japanese dashi made with dried bonito and konbu. I have also slightly changed ingredients’ amounts, adapting it to an individual portion and adjusting it to my taste. The result was still fabulous every time I cooked it, so I hope my Korean visitors will forgive me these slight modifications. To be frank, I’m sure that even using water instead of this stock will give satisfactory results, since the wonderful taste is largely due to the seasonings added later and this amazing chewiness of rice cakes.

TIPS: I always buy refrigerated ready-to-use Korean rice cakes, but I have noticed dried cakes are sold in many Asian shops. I have no idea how they taste or what consistency they might have, but I suppose they are similar, but need to be rehydrated.

If you cannot get rice cakes, you can try making them on your own. Maangchi’s recipe is very well explained and seems not too complicated.

If you don’t have time or ingredients to prepare the Korean dried fish stock or Japanese dashi, use water instead.

WARNING! Just like Maangchi warns at her website, this dish cannot be reheated. I did try once and the rice cakes become mushy and lose much of their taste, so make sure you don’t have leftovers.

Preparation: about 20 minutes (if you already have the stock ready or if you use water)

Ingredients (serves one):

250 ml (about 1 cup) Korean stock made with dried fish (see the recipe at Maangchi’s blog) or Japanese dashi (see my recipe here) or water

125g/about 1/4 lb (1/4 of a 500 g package) fresh (refrigerated) rice cakes

1 hard-boiled egg

1 tablespoon gochujang (Korean chilli paste)

1 tablespoon (or less, depending on your preferences) gochujaru (Korean chilli in powder) or other powdered chilli (Korean chilli is usually medium hot, so add other powdered chillies, which might be hotter, carefully)

1 tablespoon sugar or agave syrup or any other syrup (I have used agave syrup)

3 stalks of green onions, cut into 2,5 cm (about 1 inch) pieces

salt or soy sauce 

(toasted sesame seeds)

Pour the stock/water into a pan.

Add the gochujang, the gochujaru and the sugar/syrup.

Bring to boil, stirring until everything is well combined.

Put the rice cakes and 2/3 of the green onions (leave the rest for the decoration before serving).

Simmer for about 15 minutes until the rice cakes swell and the sauce thickens.

(When rice cakes start to stick to the bottom of the pan is for me the sign that they are ready).

Adjust the taste adding salt or soy sauce or sugar or gochujang.

Place the egg, cut in two lengthwise and heat for one more minute.

Serve sprinkled with green onions and toasted sesame seeds if you like them.




32 Replies to “Tteokbokki (Korean Rice Cakes in Hot and Sweet Sauce)”

  1. I think I’d look for commercially prepared rice cakes before trying to make my own. 🙂 Adding a batch of that yummy sauce to a serving portion of the rice cakes and eating them up sounds like the most efficient way to avoid gummy cakes.

    1. You are right. I haven’t had the courage to try doing these on my own… I’m not even sure if homemade version would be better.

  2. Tteokbokki has become quite popular in Japan since that famous TV drama, Winter Sonata, was aired in Japan. I have made it once, using the pre-made packet I got as a present. I’ve never thought of making it from scratch!
    I think that Korean mochi, tteok, is made from ordinary rice flour, not glutinous rice flour, while Japanese mochi is made from glutinous rice.

    1. Hi, Hiroyuki. The sauce is very easy to prepare and practically cooks together with the cakes, so it’s worth trying. I suppose however that Japanese pre-made packet might be less spicy 😉 I have based my information about glutinous flour on Wikipedia article. Now I have searched a bit and both kinds of flour are apparently used to prepare different tteok… I will update my post.

  3. I love this rice cakes, but have to admit that never had it Korean way…and yes, if you have leftover, the texture is totally different.
    This looks very tempting…especially with during cold days.
    Thanks for this nice recipe Sissi and hope you are having a great week 😀

  4. Hi Sissi! I just stopped by to see if you had a post about Tamagoyaki (Japanese omelette) and saw this; what a tasty looking and sounding dish. I am again tempted to head down to my Asian grocery store and stock up on these pantry items, my hesitation is that I don’t make this type of food often and my pantry is already full! Yet the temptation is very strong because of your description. The soup looks rather beautiful too.
    On another note, my friend Barb (Profiteroles and Ponytails) and I signed up for a sushi making course in February and I’m very excited about it. I shall be thinking of you as we’re making sushi.

    1. Hi Eva, thank you so much (it’s rather a thick sauce than soup). My pantry has been already full a long long time ago 😉 Here the only obligatory item is gochujang, but it has to be kept in the fridge, so I suppose it’s a storage space investment. I use gochujang very often and cannot imagine my fridge without it. I hope you will have fun with sushi classes!

  5. I last had this many years ago, in Berlin. I forgot that it existed. I remember it being tasteless on its own – definitely need a good sauce. If I remember correctly, rice cake is eaten during new years ago. Its almost like a traditional new years dish.

    1. It’s funny you tasted it in Berlin. I love them for their texture not the taste which is quite neutral indeed, but I like the taste too. It’s like rice paper a bit… On te other hand of course this sauce makes them delicious.

  6. I am a follower of Maangchis youtube channel since some time – her quick pickeld stuffed cucumbers are heavenly. I was thrilled when I first watched the episode showing this dish. Sadly I totally forgot it. Thanks for reminding. It looks so tasty. I will have to prepare my own rice cakes / aka mochi. Never found frozen or fresh rice cakes in our asia markets.

    1. Thanks a lot, Kiki. I must say I watch cooking videos only when I need to learn something complicated (or which seems complicated), like tamagoyaki for example. Otherwise I love reading recipes (I never cared for too many photos either, though it’s nice to see the final dish). I like Maangchi’s blog a lot though! I find fresh refrigerated rice cakes only in a Korean shop in France; otherwise I see only dried ones; I must test these one day.

  7. Ooh, that sweet hot sauce does sound addictive! I’d be right there with you accepting third helpings ;-). You’re right. I do think of the puffed cakes when I hear rice cakes — I just looked up Korean rice cakes/sticks and I’m so intrigued… I think I would quickly fall in love with the soft, satisfying texture combined with the compelling sauce (a bit like the pull of pasta) — this is a beautiful, unique dish Sissi. I will have to investigate the Korean shops and uncover this ingredient.

    1. Hi, Kelly. I think “dumplings” or even “gnocchi” would be a better English version, but one day someone called these “cakes” and we have to stick to this version… If you like slightly chewy, elastic textures, you would be delighted! Thank you so much for the compliments!

  8. Happy weekend Sissi!!! Hope you’re having a great one! Rice cakes in a savory dish? I’ve never seen that. What an interesting combination of flavors and textures and I love the hard-boiled egg there at the end. Thanks for the warning on leftovers. If I do get a chance to make this, I’m sure there will be no leftovers. It looks way to good to not eat it all in one sitting. Thanks for another great recipe!

    1. Thank you, MJ. As I have explained above these are savoury products, unfortunately called “cakes” for quite a long time, instead of “gnocchi” or “dumplings” (I would choose one of these… but then all those who associate “rice cakes” with tteokbokki would not understand).

        1. Haha! Don’t worry; I wasn’t surprised you understood it this way. I don’t know who translated this into “cakes” for the first time, but it was a big mistake and now it’s too late (I suppose it was translated by an Asian person who didn’t know that “cake” makes us in the West think instantly “sweet”). I have looked up many websites and it’s “rice cakes” everywhere as a translation of both Chinese and Korean ones…
          They are really closest to gnocchi, which are much more popular in Western countries. If you like gnocchi, these are like their chewier version.

  9. When I watch Korean drama or movie, this dish appears often. I like the texture but too spicy for me. I scrape the some sauce off and enjoy it. Love this and Korean drama! My Korean is getting better too.

    1. I suppose Korean cuisine is difficult to accept for those who don’t like hot dishes, but I am such a chilli addict, last time I was in Tokyo I begged my friend to take me to Korean town… I could no longer live on mild Japanese food 😉
      I don’t know many Korean films, but I have heard their series are worth seeing. Thank you for the recommendation.

  10. Yes! I clicked through to Maangchi’s site to see if it was indeed the site I’d seen before and it was! My wife stumbled across it some time ago and made this wonderful things. Oh my God – I was like you… I could just eat them all up, they were SO good!

    Your dish looks amazing Sissi – it’s 10 past midnight here but I’m feeling like I want a bowl of that right now!

  11. This is such a beautiful dish Sissi! I have only tried one dish from Korean kitchen and I loved it. I am sure this one is rich in texture and flavors!

    1. Thank you so much, Katerina. Korean dishes often combine sweet and hot combination of flavours which in my case is addictive.

  12. I absolutely love – I’ve made this recipe before and several of her other recipes. The only one I’ve made of hers that I didn’t care for was the salted fermented squid. Your version seems like a great substitute (bonito for dried fish), and looks delicious!

    1. Thank you, Susan. To tell you the truth, I tried very recently the fish stock version… It was the second time I made dried fish stock and I really don’t like it a lot. It’s too harsh, too strong. I love bonito’s smokey aroma though 🙂

  13. I too remember my first time eating Ttokbokki. My Korean friend invited me and others for dinner and he cooked several dishes. He’s now back in Korea but whenever I see Ttokbokki, I think of him. 🙂 The chewy texture of rice cakes with spicy soup. I can’t eat too spicy, but I love the flavor! I had no idea about the reheating. Good to know!

    1. Hi, Nami. You must really appreciate tteokbokki then! I know you don’t support spicy dishes. The chewy texture is irresistible, isn’t it?

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