Obsessed with Korean: The Rice Cakes

April 16, 2016 | By | Comments (3)

As a country, we seem to be quite smitten with Korean food—and for good reason. It’s anything but subtle, boasting intense flavors ranging from fiery to potently garlicky to fermenty-funky to salty-sweet … or some glorious combination of all the above. Here, an exploration of some of the defining dishes from this burgeoning cuisine. 

Let’s talk about rice cakes for just a minute. Not the crunchy diet-food snack, but Korean rice cakes—wonderfully chewy “cakes” made from basically compressed rice. That texture is absolutely addictive; they are just fantastically chewy, and I love, love, love, LOVE them. You’ll see two main forms: Tteokbokki are like cylinders, often thumb-sized (they look a little like half a piece of string cheese), though you can find longer forms that you typically cut to the size you like; sliced rice cakes, often labeled “rice ovalettes,” are thin, flat discs of rice cakes. With either version, you boil them quickly (similar to vacuum-packed gnocchi) till they float, then drain and toss with sauce or into soups.

A food vendor making tteokpokki in Tongin Market, Seoul, South Korea. Photo by Lauryn Ishak.

A food vendor making tteokbokki in Tongin Market, Seoul, South Korea. Photo by Lauryn Ishak.

In Korea, you’ll often find tteokbokki on street food carts, swimming in a sweet-spicy sauce that’s basically a combination of gochujang and corn syrup. It’s mighty delicious but not necessarily what I want to eat all the time. But in Seoul, I had a wonderful version of tteokbokki at one particular market, Tongin Market, that was different, and the best I’ve ever had. It was a dry, not swimming in sauce but rather wok-seared with Korean chile powder (gochugaru). Above is a photo showing the version I had in Seoul. Below is my rendition of it.

My re-created version of Tongin Market Tteokbokki

My re-created version of Tongin Market Tteokbokki

Sliced rice cakes work beautifully in soups and stir-fries, and make for a great Korean version of chicken and dumplings.

D'uk Gook, which is basically Korean chicken and dumplings

D’uk Gook, which is basically Korean chicken and dumplings

Is it worth it to go to a Korean market or order these ingredients online? Absolutely YES, it is. When I have people try these rice cakes, they always say they’ve never had anything quite like them before and that they are now hooked and haunted by them. Give them a try—you can toss them into any stir-fry you like, as I did below.

Korean sliced rice cakes in a stir-fry of ground pork, broccolini, dried chiles, soy sauce, and sesame oil

Korean sliced rice cakes in a stir-fry of ground pork, broccolini, dried chiles, soy sauce, and sesame oil

Keep Reading for More Korean Inspiration:

COMMENTS

  1. Obsessed with Korean: The Mashups | Cooking Light

    […] The Rice Cakes […]

    May 7, 2016 at 12:00 pm
  2. Obsessed with Korean: The Drinks | Cooking Light

    […] The Rice Cakes […]

    April 30, 2016 at 8:00 am
  3. Obsessed with Korean: The Banchan | Cooking Light

    […] The Rice Cakes […]

    April 23, 2016 at 8:01 am

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