Whether you are having it as a comfort food or a snack, here is a quick and easy delicious tteokbokki recipe made with Korean chewy rice cakes cooked in a sweet and spicy gochujang sauce that can be enjoyed all year round.
What is Tteokbokki?
In Korea, tteokbokki (ddeokbokki) is a very popular Korean street food that is made with chewy Korean rice cakes (garaetteok) and fish cakes. There are many different variations of having tteokbokki, some are made with vegetables like cabbage and carrots, and others like to enjoy it with boiled eggs, ramen, or cheese.
If you don't know what tteokbokki tastes like, this Korean dish is cooked in a spicy, sweet, and savory sauce made with gochujang and anchovy broth but the highlight of tteokbokki is the satisfying, chewiness of the rice cakes. The rice cakes are made with rice flour which is steamed and kneaded and pounded to give it its trademark chewy texture.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Rice cakes (garaetteok) - When you are buying Korean rice cakes, try to find the cylindrical ones shaped like tubes. You can buy them fresh or frozen.
- Fish Cake - Traditionally, flat fish cake sheets are used, but you can use fish balls if you cannot find them. They can be found fresh or frozen.
- Gochujang (Korean pepper paste) - This is one of the main ingredients to this dish and it cannot be substituted out or omitted. It gives the sauce it's signature sweet and spicy flavor.
- Gochugaru (Korean chili flakes) - This ingredient is what I use to adjust my spicness level. Use less (or none) for a mild spicness and use more for a more spicy dish.
- Hondashi Dashi Powder - For additional umami, I like to add dashi powder to my broth. It provides the broth with a hint of smokiness. It is also the main source of sodium for this dish. If you cannot find this, you can substitute it with soy sauce.
- Bonito Flakes - I add this smoky fish flake instead of anchovies to my broth because I find it has a bit more flavor and it adds a nice light smokiness to the dish. It is also easier to find and store. If you cannot find this, you can omit it.
- Toasted Sesame Oil - This ingredients adds a lot of flavor to the dish. Add it at the end after you turn off the heat to retain its flavor.
- Kelp - Adding kelp into the broth will give it an umami boost. If you can't find it, you can omit it.
- Garnishes - I like to garnish this dish with finely chopped green onions and toasted sesame seeds right before eating it.
My version of Tteokbokki sauce is made with gochujang, gochugaru, sugar, and garlic. I don't add soy sauce into it because I add the sodium into the dish with hondashi dashi powder, which you use when making the stock.
If you are not using hondashi dashi powder, then I would definitely mix soy sauce into the tteokbokki sauce. The sauce should be sweet, spicy, and savory.
To tweak the spiciness of this tteokbokki recipe, I would adjust the gochugaru chili flakes. Spiciness Levels : 0-1 teaspoon = mild, 2 teaspoons = medium, 3+ teaspoons = spicy.
How to Make Tteokbokki
- If you are using frozen rice cakes, soak them in water water for 10 minutes, and then drain it.
- Slice the onions and chop the fish cakes into small pieces and set it aside.
- Mix the gochujang, gochugaru, sugar and finely chopped/grated garlic together in a small bowl and set the sauce aside
- In a shallow pan, boil water on medium heat. Add in the kelp, bonito flakes and dashi powder and boil for 10 minutes
- Scoop out the bonito flakes and kelp and discard it.
- Add in the tteokbokki sauce, onions and rice cakes and cook it for 5 minutes
- Add in the fish cakes and cook for another 5 minutes until the sauce has thicken into a glossy sauce
- Turn off the heat, drizzle in the sesame oil and garnish with toasted sesame seeds and/or green onions and enjoy!
How to Store and Re-Heat Tteokbokki
Tteokbokki can be kept in the fridge for up to 3 days. Once it is refrigerated, the rice cakes will get hard.
It will take some extra time in the microwave to soften it. Keep in mind that the rice cakes will not be as chewy as when they were fresh so it is best enjoyed the same day it was cooked.
When you are microwaving it, if the sauce looks very thick or there is no sauce, mix a bit of water in before you heat it up. Try to separate the rice cakes before you re-heat them so that they will heat up more quickly and evenly.
More Spicy Korean Rice Cakes Add-ins
If you're looking for something different, try switching up the add-ins to your tteokbokki!
- Protein - For a bit of protein, you can add in hot dogs, seafood, dumplings or soft/medium boiled eggs.
- Cheese - Add some shredded or processed cheese slices on top right before serving it for some extra creaminess.
- Vegetables - You can add a cup of cabbage and/or carrots to give your korean rice cakes a bit more bulk and food to eat.
- Ramen - You can make this a more heartier meal by adding some cooked ramen noodles in it. It's actually a whole new dish called Rabokki!
- Once you start simmering the rice cakes in the sauce, it's important to keep stiring it so that it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan.
- If you are not using fresh rice cakes, and you are using frozen ones, soak them in warm (not hot) water for 10 minutes before using them.
- To keep the rice cakes chewy, don't overcook them. Once the sauce has thickened and the rice cakes are soft, remove it from the heat.
- What are tteokbokki rice cakes made of? These Korean rice cakes are made with rice flour and salt.
- How long do Korean rice cakes last? If you buy them from the refridgerated section, they should have an expiration date on them. You can freeze them if you can't use them all. You can also buy them frozen which will last for at least 6 months in the freezer.
- Can I put meat in my tteokbokki? You definitely can! If you can thinly slice some raw meat and cook it with the rice cakes for about 10 minutes or you can use leftovers!
- Where do I buy rice cakes? You can find them in Korean, Japanese and sometimes Chinese supermarket in the refridgerated or freezer section. I do not recommend buying them online. If you're feeling adventurous you can try making them from scratch with Lisa's Steamed Rice Cake Recipe or you can make it using rice paper using Seonkyoung's rice cake hack.
- Why is my Tteokbokki sauce not thick? Try cooking the rice cakes in the sauce for longer. The starch will thicken the sauce naturally. If you want the sauce thicker, you can mix in a corn starch slurry while the rice cakes are cooking. Mix 1 teaspoons of corn starch with 1 teaspoons of cold water and slowly mix it in while constantly stirring.
- Is tteobokki really spicy? I would say it's about mild to medium spicy. You can adjust the spicness level by adjusting the amount of gochugaru you put in it.
- What if I don't have hondashi dashi powder or bonito flakes? You can use soy sauce instead of hondashi, and you can omit the bonito flakes, you will only lose out of the smoky seafood flavor.
- My rice cakes are not soft, but there's no sauce left in the pan. - Add more water and cook the rice cakes until they are soft.
Looking for More Korean Recipes?
- Japchae (Stir-Fried Korean Glass Noodles)
- Tuna Mayo Deopbap (Korean Tuna Rice Bowl)
- Kimchi Fried Rice (Kimchi Bokkeumbap)
- Spicy Korean Pork Bulgogi
- Spicy Kimchi Tofu Stew (Kimchi Jjigae)
- Stir-Fried Kimchi Rice Cakes
- Korean Corn Cheese (Elote Style)
- Korean Fried Popcorn Turkey
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Tteokbokki (Spicy Korean Rice Cakes)
- 1 lb rice cakes (garaetteok) (tubular shaped, approx. 2.5 cups)
- 1 sheet fish cake (see notes for substitutions)
- 1 small onion (finely sliced, approx. 1 cup)
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil (added after turning off heat at the end)
Additional Add-ins (Optional, Pick One)
- 1 cup carrots and cabbage (shredded)
- 1 cup shredded or processed cheese slices (add on top right before eating)
- 3 eggs (soft or medium boiled)
- hotdogs or leftover meat
- toasted sesame seeds
- green onions
- If you are using frozen rice cakes, soak them in warm (not hot) water for 10 minutes, then drain and set them aside
- Peel and slice the onion and set them aside
- Cut the fish cakes into small pieces and set them aside
- If you are using green onions as your garnish, finely chop it and set it aside for the end
- If you are using any add-ins, prepare them now (ie. grate the cheese, boil the eggs)
Make the Tteokbokki Sauce
- Finely chop or grate the garlic.
- Mix the gochujang, gochugaru, sugar, and garlic together in a small bowl and set the sauce aside
Make the Broth
- In a shallow pan, boil water on medium-high heat. Add in the kelp, bonito flakes, and dashi powder and boil for 10 minutes. If you are not using hondashi dashi powder, 2 tablespoons of soy sauce instead.
- Scoop out the bonito flakes and kelp and discard them
Cooking the Tteokbokki
- Turn the heat down to medium heat.
- Add in the tteokbokki sauce, onions, and rice cakes and cook for about 5 minutes. Once the sauce starts to simmer, it's important to keep stirring it so that it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan.
- Add in the fish cakes and cook for another 5 minutes until the sauce has thickened into a glossy sauce.
- Do a taste test and adjust the sauce to your liking. Then try a rice cake, they should be soft and chewy. If they are still hard, continue to cook for a few more minutes.
- Turn off the heat, drizzle in the sesame oil and garnish with toasted sesame seeds and/or green onions and add in any add-ins. Enjoy!
- To tweak the spiciness use less or more gochugaru. Spiciness Levels : 0-1 teaspoon = mild, 2 teaspoons = medium, 3+ teaspoons = spicy.
- I highly recommend using hondashi dashi powder but if you can't find it, substitute it with 2 tablespoons of soy sauce.
- If you cannot find bonito flakes or kelp, omit it - you will only lose a bit of umami from the kelp and smoky flavor from the bonito flakes.
- To keep the rice cakes chewy, don't overcook them. Once the sauce has thickened and the rice cakes are soft, turn off the heat.
- If you cannot find fish cakes in sheet form, you can use fish balls instead.
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