Right now the drama that has my heart is The Third Charm. One of the big food items from this drama is ddeukkboki (떡볶이) (also spelled tteukbokki) that is often called Spicy Rice Cakes in English. Spicy is right because this dish is like lava. I remember trying it in Korea after seeing some high school kids munching happily on it at a cart. The woman who made it told me I should probably rinse it off with water before eating it so I did.
And then my mouth promptly lit on fire as I died. IT WAS SO HOT. I coughed, my eyes teared up, I couldn’t talk, (O laughed at me, took a bite of his unwashed one like the native Korean he is, and promptly started coughing as his mouth ignited as well, hahaha you have been Americanized!). Y’all it was that hot after I rinsed it off with water. What were those high school kids made of? It looked like they were happily eating popcorn, not molten lava. Needless to say, ddukbogi is not for me. But it is for millions of people the world over and perhaps it is for you as well, so let’s get into how to make it!
HOW TO MAKE SPICY RICE CAKES AKA DDEUKKBOKI / TTEUKKBOKI
STEP ONE: GATHER ALL THE INGREDIENTS
This image was edited from Kimchi and Basil
O has made this dish several times so he picked the recipe he likes the most, which is Maangchi’s recipe, but we used images from 얌고’s blog on Naver. In addition, as with all dishes, there are several ways you can make them. For instance, you can make it more on the sweet side or more on the savoury side; with fish cakes and/or eggs, or without it; with anchovies or without; it is really up to you.
O says that water is the key in making this dish. Rice cake and fish cake are the main base, other than that, you can add anything you want. But for this recipe we will keep it simple and follow Maangchi’s recipe for the most part.
1 pound of cylinder shaped rice cake
4 cups of water
7 large dried anchovies (with head and intestines removed)
6 x 8 inch dried kelp
⅓ cup hot pepper paste
1 tablespoon hot pepper flakes
1 tablespoon sugar
3 green onions
2 hard boiled eggs (optional)
½ pound fish cakes (optional)
STEP TWO: MAKE BROTH
Add the water, Kelp, and dried anchovies in a shallow pot or pan (vegans can use vegetable broth instead). Boil for 15 minutes over medium-high heat without the lid so that it can concentrate a bit. Remove anchovies afterward.
STEP THREE: ADD HOT PEPPER PASTE, FLAKES, AND SUGAR
Be sure that you have removed the anchovies and then add the hot pepper paste, hot pepper flakes, and sugar. Stir until everything looks dissolved.
STEP FOUR: ADD RICE CAKES, VEGETABLE OIL, GREEN ONIONS, FISH CAKES, AND HARD BOILED EGGS
One by one, add the rice cake, vegetable oil (one recipe used grape seed oil), green onion, fish cakes, and hard boiled eggs. The stock will be about 2 ½ cups by now.
Use a spoon (Maangchi suggests a wooden spoon) to stir gently when it starts to boil. Stir until the sauce becomes thick and shiny and the rice cake turns soft. This should take about 10-15 minutes. You may need to add water if the sauce becomes too thick but the rice cake is still not soft. This step is very individual. If you like thick sauce then you don’t have to add a lot of water; if you like runny sauce then add more water.
Note: It takes a shorter time to cook if you use freshly made rice cake. Frozen rice cakes take longer and you need to thaw them plus soak them in water to soften them before cooking. (I guess it could be compared to using fresh pasta or hard pasta?)
STEP FIVE: SERVE!
In this step it is ready to eat right away, but you can allow it to cool before serving. You can also cut the long rice cake cylinders into smaller pieces if you want. The sauce is also great as a dipping sauce for other side dishes.
If you can handle the heat, then I suggest giving this dish a try! I definitely cannot handle the heat on this one and never want to try it again. But I would say that this dish is to Koreans what hot dogs are to the US. Street food that is everywhere you go and that basically everyone eats or has eaten before.