Tteokbokki/Topokki: From Royal Kitchens to Street Food

Imagine chewy, pillowy, bouncy rice cakes bathed in a fiery-red sauce, a symphony of sweet, savory, and spicy – this is the epitome of tteokbokki or pronounced as topokki, a Korean street food sensation.

Taking the world by storm one bite at a time, tteokboki is so much more than just a rice cake, for its origins can be traced back all the way to the royal kitchens of the Joseon Dynasty. It started off as a milder dish in a soy sauce broth, served with meat, seafood and vegetables. 

After the Korean war, tteokbokki picked up in popularity among the masses, taking shape as a budget-friendly version made with cheaper ingredients and coated in a vibrant gochujang (Korean chilli paste) sauce. This combination quickly became a crowd-favourite, enjoyed throughout the seasons not only by Koreans, but by millions around the world.

The level of spiciness can vary greatly, catering to both heat-seeking thrill-chasers and those who prefer a gentler experience. But a truly great tteokbokki isn't just about the combination of sauce and rice cakes. Accompanying ingredients like fish cakes, boiled eggs, kimchi, and even ramen noodles often join the party, adding layers of flavour and textural complexity.

Here are 4 creative recipes involving tteokbokki or topokki:

 

Creamy Rose Tteokbokki

Photo & Recipe Source

This recipe is a delightful Korean and Western fusion, featuring the indulgent creaminess and tanginess of cream, tomato paste and gochujang. 

This recipe serves 4.

What you’ll need:

  • 320 g Korean rice cakes or tteokbokki, or wheat cakes (mil-tteok)
  • 1/2 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tbsp minced garlic
  • 113 g cocktail sausage, roughly scored
  • 2 sheets Korean fish cake, diced
  • 4 tbsp chopped green onion, to garnish, optional
  • 1 tbsp cooking oil
  • 2 tbsp Korean chili paste (gochujang)
  • 1 cup (240 ml) water
  • 1 tbsp ketchup
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp chicken bouillon powder, optional
  • 3/4 cup (160 ml) heavy cream, or whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) milk
  • 4 tbsp grated parmesan cheese, optional

How to prepare:

  1. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and stir-fry until soft, about 2-3 minutes. Add sausage and continue to stir-fry for another 2 minutes.
  2. Add gochujang and cook for another 1 minute. Pour in water and add fish cake, ketchup, soy sauce, sugar, and chicken bouillon powder (if using). Stir them well.
  3. Add the tteokbokki (rice cakes) and bring the sauce to a gentle boil.
  4. Add cream and milk, stirring everything well. Simmer for 4-5 minutes over medium-low heat until the rice cakes are tender and the sauce has thickened slightly. Add cheese, if using, to the sauce and stir well.
  5. Remove the skillet from the heat and garnish with green onion. Serve warm. The sauce will thicken more as it sits.

 

Cheesy Tteokbokki

Recipe & Photo Source

This recipe is a fun twist on the traditional tteokbokki with the addition of cheese and eggs to create a rich and satisfying combination that is sure to please.

This recipe serves 4.

What you’ll need:

  • 3 Tbsp gochujang (Korean red pepper paste)
  • 1 Tbsp gochugaru (Korean red pepper powder), more or less to taste
  • 1 Tbsp Korean rice syrup (can be substituted with honey or sugar)
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 450g Korean cylindrical tteokbokki (fresh or frozen)
  • 100g Korean fish cake slices (fresh or frozen, cut into bite sized triangles or rectangles)
  • 2½ cups water mixed with a 6g packet instant dashi (or 2½ cups broth or plain water), divided
  • ½ small onion, sliced
  • 2 scallions, chopped into ¼-inch pieces (reserve some green parts for garnish)
  • 1 small garlic clove, finely minced
  • 2 boiled eggs, cooked to desired doneness
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

How to prepare:

  1. In a small bowl, mix gochujang, gochugaru, soy sauce, Korean rice syrup and sugar.
  2. If rice cakes are frozen, soak them in tap water for 20 minutes, then drain. If fish cake slices are frozen, rinse under hot water for 30 seconds.
  3. Into a 10-11-inch skillet, place rice cakes, fish cake slices, onions, scallions, garlic and eggs. Add sauce and 2 cups of the dashi or broth, reserving the remaining ½ cup to use only as needed.
  4. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil for 8-10 minutes or until rice cakes are chewy but tender all the way through, and the sauce is thickened. Stir often to prevent rice cakes from sticking to the pan. Add splashes of reserved liquid if rice cakes are not yet done but the sauce is drying out too much.
  5. Once rice cakes are cooked, reduce heat to low. Sprinkle cheese on top, cover and simmer for 3 minutes or when cheese is melted. Garnish with spring onions, sesame seeds and serve.

 

Crispy & Chewy Tteokbokki Skewers

Photo & Recipe Source

These simple, unassuming Tteokbokki Skewers (Ttoek-kkochi) are deliciously crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside! 

This recipe serves 4.

What you’ll need:

  • 450g tteokbokki/rice cakes, fresh or frozen (chilled), about 3-inch long pieces
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 3 tbsp Korean chili paste (gochujang)
  • 2 tbsp ketchup
  • 1/2 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp strawberry jam , or sweet chili sauce
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1-2 tbsp water
  • dashes freshly cracked pepper
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped nuts, of your choice

How to prepare:

  1. Insert 3-4 fresh rice cakes through each skewer. If using frozen rice cakes, blanch the cakes in hot water until soften, wipe off the moisture with paper towel, then insert the skewers.
  2. In a small bowl, combine chili paste, ketchup, garlic, jam (and/or sweet chili sauce), honey, water, and black pepper; mix well. Pour the sauce in a small skillet and boil for 1 minute until slightly thicken. Set aside.
  3. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat and fry the rick cake skewers until crisp and bubbly on the surface, about 2-3 minutes on each side. Brush with the sauce and sprinkle the chopped nut over.
  4. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

Tteokbokki Stir Fry


Photo & Recipe Source

 

This dish features thin, round, and chewy rice cake pieces stir-fried with vegetables, resulting in a wholesome dish that can be enjoyed as a snack or a meal.

This recipe serves 4.

What you’ll need:

  • 450g tteokbokki / rice cake rounds
  • 1 tbsp wild sesame oil, or sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil, divided
  • 1/2 small onion, sliced
  • 1/4 green cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 1-2 cloves garlic , minced
  • 1/4 cup sliced Asian chives, optional
  • 1 fresh chili, sliced (optional)
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp corn syrup
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1-2 tbsp Korean chili flakes (gochugaru)
  • 1 tbsp sweet rice wine (mirim)
  • dashes black pepper
  • 2 tsp roasted sesame seeds

How to prepare:

  1. Bring a pot of water to boil. Add the rice cakes and boil until the they float to the top, about 2-3 minutes. Drain the rice cake and put them in mixing bowl. Add the wild sesame oil and 1 tablespoon of cooking oil; toss them well.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together soy sauce, corn syrup, sugar chili flakes, rice wine, and pepper. Set aside.
  3. Heat the remaining oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the onion, cabbage, and garlic; stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add the rice cakes and continue to stir-fry for another 1 minute.
  4. Add the soy sauce mixture, chives, and chilli (if using) to the skillet and toss well; continue to stir-fry for another minute or until everything is well incorporated. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and serve immediately.

So, the next time you encounter tteokbokki, don't just see it as a snack. Savour its complex flavors and textures, appreciate its cultural significance, and let it be your passport to a vibrant culinary journey through the heart of Korea, one fiery bite at a time.

Be sure to share your tteokbokki creations with us by tagging us on Asian Pantry via Facebook and Instagram!

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