Tteokbokki, the Traditional Way

Tteokbokki, Goonjoong tteokbokki, traditional tteokbokki

Although most people familiar with  Korean cuisine are aware of the spicy, fiery tteokbokki, not many people are aware that the traditional tteokbokki was not spicy or red.  Known as Royal or Palace Tteokbokki (goong-joong tteokbokki), the traditional tteokbokki was soy sauce based and made with quick sauteeing of the rice cakes with pre-marinated meat.  Kind of like bulgogi with some veggies and rice cakes.  It’s called Palace tteokbokki because it was served in the Korean Royal Court, to the kings and queens of​ Joseon Dynasty hundreds of years ago.  Tteokbokki got a makeover after the Korean War (1950-1953), when it started popping up as a popular street food, and in the process became the red and spicy kind that we all know and love today.

Growing up, I loved spicy food, and I did not like the soy based tteokbokki at all.  My mom would make it, and I would ask for the spicy kind, since I found the regular kind to be boring (such a culinary adventurer I was!).  Now that I am older, I enjoy the milder flavors of the traditional kind, with the same chewy textures of rice cakes that I adore.

Today, I'll make the traditional tteokbokki, which is great as a meal or a snack for kids since it is a little salty and sweet without any of the intense spice that might be difficult fo​r​ children​ to handle.​​

What you need:

  • tteokbokki rice cakes, about 1 lb (half of a package, available at Korean markets)
  • 1/4- 1/3 lb thinly sliced beef, I used beef for shabu
  • 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 small carrot, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 small bell pepper
  • 2 shitake mushrooms
  • ​1/2 tablespoon sesame oil​
  • some chopped green onions for garnish
  • sesame seeds for garnish
  • marinade for beef (as below)
  • marinade for tteokbokki (as below)

The ingredients above can be altered depending on what you have in the fridge, but the main components are ​beef​, rice cakes (in a pinch, the flat circular ones are fine), and vegetables.

Marinade for be​ef:

  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 1 tablespoon plum extract or if it's not available, corn syrup or honey
  • 1 tablespoon chopped green onion
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • a little black pepper

​​Marinade for tteokbokki:

  • ​2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon oligosaccharides or honey or corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons mirin
  • 1/2 tablespoon garlic
  • a little black pepper

​First make the marinade for beef, and pour over the beef.  ​Mix well and let it marinate for about 20-30 minutes.

Chop up all the vegetables.  Make the marinade for tteokbokki and have it ready.

Boil a small pot of water and blanch the rice cakes for about 30 seconds to a minute.  Drain, and you can mix in a little sesame oil so that the rice cakes don't stick together while you let it rest.  This process lets the rice cakes cook through and you will have soft, chewy rice cakes afterwards.

Add a little oil in a pan.  Start cooking the beef first.  Add the onions and sautee.  After a couple of minutes, add the rest of the vegetables.  ​Add the rice cakes and pour the marinade.  Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of water, cook on​ medium-high heat for a few minutes.  Mix frequently so that the rice cakes do not stick to the bottom of the pan​ and cook until the vegetables are done and the seasoning is mixed well.  Lastly ​drizzle​​1/2 tablespoon of sesame oil for one final mix.

Sprinkle the green onion and sesame seeds, and you are ready to eat.

​Be careful not to overcook the ricecakes because it will lose its chewy texture.  This dish can be sweeter or saltier depending on your personal preference, so adjust the amount of sugar depending on your taste.  Delicious as a snack or a meal, I hope you give another version of tteokbokki a try!  Enjoy!​ 

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