Tteokguk 떡국 (Rice Cake Soup)

[Update 12/31/2014] This was a recipe that my lovely girlfriend made for me almost one year ago for New Year’s Day when we lived back in Seoul. I still remember how good it tasted despite a slight tweak from the original recipe. And surprisingly, it was great even without any meat. I highly recommend this recipe if you want a fool-proof recipe that won’t take longer than 30 minutes start to finish. ^^

Although there wasn’t a lot of time for cooking or eating on New Year’s Day, I got to experience a semi-instant tteokguk thanks to a good friend of mine who is also quite adept at cooking (yah, someone else finally doing the cooking!). And I have to admit, it was one of the better tasting rice cake soups that I have had in a long time (even comparable to my mom’s). The traditional method calls for boiling a good chunk of beef with vegetables for at least 30 minutes for the stock, but with some beef stock from Ottogi you can cut your total cooking time in half without sacrificing all the good taste. To be honest, this broth is even better because it’s the same broth used in seolleungtang (beef bone soup) and gomtang (oxtail soup), two of my favorite wintertime soups with a rich, milky-white broth. The broth in traditional tteokguk is pretty mild and starchy in comparison. Like most Korean soups and stews, there are a few variations, but the basics include mandu (dumplings), fried egg strips (jidan), seaweed, beef strips, and scallions. You are free to mix-and-match ingredients to suit your palate. Make sure to cook your batch of tteokguk because there is nothing better than starting off the New Year’s slurping down those slippery smooth rice cakes on an empty stomach. Thank you MJ! ^^

Here are some interesting facts about this traditional dish:

  • It is a traditional dish enjoyed by many (if not all Koreans) during the New Year’s and Lunar New Year holiday.
  • Its color and length are symbolic—representing longevity, purity, and a fresh start to the new year—and a reminder of Korea’s past when high mortality rates were common and living conditions were poorer.
  • On New Year’s Day, there’s a custom of asking “How many bowls of tteokguk have you eaten?” to ask an individual’s age and the idea of getting a year older.
  • This soup is not only for special occasions, but can be deliciously enjoyed all-year round for large groups and festive events.

 

 “Food, in the end, in our own tradition, is something holy. It’s not about nutrients and calories. It’s about sharing. It’s about honesty. It’s about identity.”  ~ Louise Fresco

 

 

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This is a semi-quick version that doesn’t take longer than 30 minutes.
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After separating the egg whites and yolk, fry them on a non-stick pan.
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If you want to cut cooking time even more, you can fry them together instead of separately.
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This Korean beef stock is a life-saver, and even better, the final result is hardly affected.
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After boiling the stock a few minutes, add the tteok (rice cakes) and scallions to the mix.
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Garnish with egg strips, ggim (seaweed), and some greens. After some mixing and mashing, your tteokguk should look something like this.

 

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients: (Serves 2 people)

  • 5 cups thinly sliced garae tteok (rice cake)
  • 2 packages of Ottogi beef bone stock
  • 2 green onions/scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2, 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 eggs, yolks & white fried separately and cut into thin strips (garnish)
  • laver or seaweed strips, gim (garnish)
  • sprinkle of salt & pepper (according to taste)
  • mandu (dumplings; optional)
  • thin slices of beef (optional)

Directions:

  1. Rinse the rice cake in cold water; soak in water for at least 15 minutes if frozen or partially frozen.
  2. Pour the instant beef stock into a large pot and boil on high heat. Add the minced garlic and rice cakes. Boil at a simmer about 10 minutes or until the rice cake slices start to float. Season with a little salt and pepper.  When rice cakes are almost cooked, include the scallion slices.
  3. Make the garnish by separating the egg whites and yolks. In a non-stick pan or skillet, add olive oil and fry them into a thin sheet; transfer to cutting board and cut into thin strips. For the sheets of gim (seaweed), toast them over medium heat for a few seconds; cut into thin strips.
  4. Ladle the soup into bowls, dividing the rice cake slices evenly. For each serving, place a nice handful of the egg strips, scallions, and seaweed strips.
  5. Serve hot with kimchi or kkakdugi (cubed radish kimchi).
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