Tteokbokki 떡볶이 (Hot & Spicy Rice Cake)

Tteokbokki 떡볶이

Tteokbokki, in its classic form, is lightly sweetened but definitely packs some heat. Traditionally it’s eaten with toothpicks but go ahead and use chopsticks or even a fork; just be careful because it could stain your clothes and possibly your hands if you decide to go that route.

Tteokbokki 떡볶이

Adapted from Maangchi


1 pound of cylinder shaped rice cakes¹
4 cups of water
7 large size dried anchovies, with heads and intestines removed²
Handful of kombu (dried kelp)
⅓ cup gochujang (hot pepper paste)
1 tablespoon gochugaru (hot pepper flakes)
1 tablespoon of sugar (it can be any sweetener, I used agave)
3 green onions, cut into 3 inch long pieces
Toasted sesame seeds for topping (optional)
Mozzarella cheese for topping (optional)


1. In a shallow pot/pan, add the water, dried anchovies, and dried kelp and let boil for 15 minutes over medium heat without a lid.
2. In a small bowl, combine the gochujang, gochugaru, and sweetener.
3. Remove the anchovies and kelp from the pot and add the rice cakes, sauce mixture, and green onions.
4. Using a wooden spoon, stir the mixture until it starts to boil. The rice cakes will soften and the sauce will thicken and appear shiny which should take about 10-15 minutes.
5. Remove from heat and serve hot. You can top if off with mozzarella cheese and toasted sesame seeds for more texture.

¹If you use freshly made rice cake, it will take half the time to cook as opposed to frozen rice cake that would need to be thawed out with cold water prior to cooking. If you are using frozen or store bought rice cakes, you may need to separate them
²Omit the anchovy and use shitake mushroom for a vegan-friendly version.

Growing up I had an affinity for Korean music and was obsessed with groups like H.O.T, Shinhwa, S.E.S, Seshs Kies, 1TYM, Roo’Ra, Fin.K.L,  NRG, Baby V.O.X, Koyote, Drunken Tiger, I could go on and on. I never fully understood what they were saying but it wasn’t an issue Google couldn’t fix. As I got older and branched out more, I discovered that more than Korean music, I loved the food. The flavors are so simplistic but have a lot of depth.

My first experience eating Korean food was Korean BBQ and the way it’s presented and eaten like family style reminded me of the culture and food I grew up with being Laotian. After my first taste of KBBQ, I had to try more foods from this country. I realized how much I love stews after being introduced to many forms of jjigae. I am used to eating things hot or at the very least room temperature so when I was discovered naengmyeon, my mind was blown. My favorite is bibim-naengmyeon because I like all things spicy–well, almost all things.

I love Korean food so much that I’ve picked up some food-related words just to get by. I used to live in DC and there was this international market in my neighborhood and my friends and I really wanted some KBBQ at home instead of driving into Virginia. I was looking for pork belly because I absolutely love pork belly; that’s my go-to meat when we go out for BBQ. I didn’t see it in the meat area but being an international market that caters to Asian and Latin cuisine, they just had to. I asked someone that worked there and he had no idea what I was talking about and directed me to the owner but he couldn’t understand either. Finally, I got the courage to ask him if he was Korean and he said yes. So in my mind I’m saying to myself, “here we go, don’t butcher this, it’s worth a try if you ask.” So I proceeded to ask him if he had samgyeopsal–mind you, my pronunciation was probably awful but his face lit up and he walked me to the meat area again and he couldn’t find it either but said he would order some for me and it would be available the next day. In that moment I realized, making an effort to connect with someone else’s culture can be immensely helpful.

Fast forward to today, the dish that I recently had a craving for was one I had only had once or twice. My first time was when I ordered take out for lunch at work from Triple B Fresh and my first taste of tteokbokki was amazing. I loved it. I loved it so much that when I got home, I wanted more and with me not having a car, I usually order take out or end up going out to eat with friends. I actually found an instant version during a trip to my local grocer and was psyched to try it out only to be let down. I was excited in the fact that it would be easy to make considering it’s just a few minutes in the microwave but the texture of the rice cake was off because of the way it was cooked and the sauce lacked depth. Maybe because the sauce had to have some type of preservative, I’m not sure, I can’t remember the ingredient list to be honest. After that failure, I decided to see how difficult it would be to make it on my own so I surfed YouTube and recipes I found online and realized how freaking easy this dish is! Come to think of it, it should be easy considering it’s a common street food in Korea.

Well, that was quite the story. If you make this dish yourself, don’t forget to tag me, I’d love to see how yours turned out! As for me, I’m nibbling away and laughing at My Sassy Girl–the original–not the poorly done western remake.

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  • Well, I need to make this now. I’ve been pretty much living off gochujang lately since I finally found an H-Mart here. I’ve been wanting a good recipe for the rice cake as well, this sounds perfect! 😀 <3