It’s not easy to find a dish in Korean cuisine that doesn’t utilize a lot of red pepper spices (gochugaru) and paste (gochujang). And it’s probably even harder to find one that doesn’t include any type of meat. However, this old-school dish called gungjung tteokbokki, a dish literally meaning “royal court rice cakes,” meets both of those criteria albeit with a little bit of tweaking. This traditional dish originated far back when Korea had kingdoms and dynasties (specifically the Joseon Dynasty) long ago. And surprisingly, there were no red pepper spices back then to work with, thus making the dish more savory than spicy. This dish (at least the tteokbokki, or spicy rice cakes) is ubiquitous in Korea, where you will find it on every street corner served on food carts usually run by hard-working ajummas who sell the spicy version along with other “fast food” Korean snacks. I’ve had this countless times for a quick eat so I know firsthand how much Koreans love this. Personally, this dish is very nostalgic and comforting, reminding me of the days past when things were simple and easy-going. With today’s successful attempt (the family said they loved it!), I will surely include more variations of tteokbokki in the future.
Servings: 4 people
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
- 1 lb garae tteok (rice cake, cylindrical pieces)
- 1 bunch white beech mushrooms (enoki or shiitake okay)
- 2 bell pepper varieties, cut into strips
- 3, 4 green onion, cut into strips
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp Mirin
- 1/2 tbsp sesame oil
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 1 tsp sesame seeds
- vegetable or olive oil
- sesame seeds (garnish)
- 1 tbsp gochugaru (red pepper flakes; optional for extra heat)
1. Cook tteok (rice cake) according to package directions. If ready for use, boiling in water for a few minutes will do the trick. If frozen, set out and let thaw for at least 20 minutes or soak in water for 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, clean the vegetables accordingly, then cut the vegetables into 2-inch strips. Mushrooms can be pulled individually by hand; set aside. Prepare the sauce ingredients in a mixing bowl; set aside.
3. In a non-stick pan, bring 1 tbsp olive oil to medium-high heat, then sauté the bell peppers and mushrooms, 3 minutes. Add in tteok and green onions, cook another 3~5 minutes or until the sauce slightly thickens.
4. Sample the sauce and adjust accordingly. Serve hot with rice and other side dishes.
*As with most Korean dishes, you can adjust the flavors by adding or omitting the main sauce components: soy sauce (salty), sugar (sweet), and sesame oil (nutty). Don’t hesitate to play around with these flavors until you find a combination that fits your palate. 🙂