I love Korean food! For several years I worked in New Malden, my office located right by rail station, within very short walking distance of many local Korean restaurants. New Malden is colloquially known as Little Korea, a reflection of the large Korean community there, making it one of the best places in the UK to enjoy authentic, delicious Korean food. Most of my colleagues brought packed lunches or cooked in the tiny office kitchenettes, but I went out for a Korean lunch almost every day.
I’d alternate between several favourites including dolsot bibimbap (an array of toppings over rice in a hot stone bowl), bulgogi (marinated meat), galbi (beef short ribs) all manner of jjigae (stews), katsu (yes, Japanese, but also popular in Korean restaurants), Korean fried chicken, tteokbokki (fried rice cakes), yukgaejang (spicy shredded beef soup), and a fabulous array of banchan (small, mainly vegetable-based side dishes).
Tteokbokki (which translates to fried rice cakes) has always been a favourite, both the classic gochujang version (combining rice cakes with thin slices of fish cakes in a fiery gochujang sauce) and ganjang (‘royal style’, featuring thinly sliced beef simmered alongside rice cakes in a sweet soy-based sauce).
In my personal take on the classic gochujang tteokbokki I swap the thin slices of fish cake for deep fried tofu puffs, which I love as a counterpart to chewy rice cake. My recipe includes both onions and spring onions, sesame seeds for flavour, and a fiery and delicious gochujang sauce.
Notes on Recipe Ingredients
Rice Cakes: Rice cakes are made by pounding glutinous rice flour and water into a thick, smooth paste that is shaped into cakes and dried. It is common to use garaetteok (cylindrical-shaped rice cakes) in tteokbokki; if you can get those, do use them, but other shapes are fine. We buy long-life rice cakes that we can store in our larder, and they often come in rectangular blocks, which we cut into squares for this dish.
Deep Fried Tofu: This recipe really needs tofu puffs, and doesn’t work well with firm or silken tofu. You can usually find ready-made tofu puffs in Chinese, Japanese and Korean food shops.
Spring Onions: Use both white and green parts of the spring onions. Cut and discard as little of the root end as you can, peel away any damaged or discoloured outer layers, and discard only the dried up tips of the greens.
Dashi Stock: Instead of Korean stock (made with dried anchovies and kelp) we use Japanese dashi (made from kelp and dried tuna or bonito), which is more readily available. We buy it as a concentrate from our local Japanese grocery shop, and make it up with water as needed. If you can find Korean kelp and anchovy stock concentrate online, do use that instead. If you don’t have either, you can use water instead – your dish will still be delicious since much of the flavour in this recipe comes from the gochujang and gochugaru
Gochujang: This is the key flavouring ingredient of this dish, so it’s not one we recommend substituting. If your local specialist food shops don’t stock it, try online retailers. It’s usually sold in tubs and lasts well in the fridge once opened.
Gochugaru: The other key ingredient of tteokbokki is hot red chilli flakes. We prefer to use Korean ones as they have the right flavour profile. This dish is usually fiery hot, but we tone it down a touch for our palates by reducing the amount of gochugaru. If you like it really hot, use the full 2 teaspoons.
Minced Garlic: We use pre-minced garlic in a jar but if you prefer fresh, use 1 large or 2 small cloves, finely minced.
Chewy Rice Cakes & Tofu Puffs in Gochujang Sauce (Korean Tteokbokki)
Tteokbokki (which translates literally to fried rice cakes) has always been a favourite of mine. This is my take on the classic gochujang version (which usually combines rice cakes with thin slices of fish cakes in a fiery gochujang sauce). In my version I swap out the fish cake for deep fried tofu puffs, which I think are a perfect counterpart to chewy rice cake. My recipe includes both onions and spring onions, sesame seeds for flavour, and a fiery and delicious gochujang sauce.
- 350 g rice cakes (see notes)
- 200 g deep fried tofu (tofu puffs, see notes)
- 2 medium or 1 large onion, peeled and cut into large wedges
- 4-6 spring onions (scallions), roots removed, cut into 4 cm (1.5 inch) batons
- 1-2 tsp sesame seeds
For the gochujang sauce
- 500 ml dashi stock (see note)
- 3 tbsp gochujang (fermented red chilli paste)
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 heaped tsp minced garlic (see note)
- 0.5 to 2 tsp gochugaru (Korean red chilli flakes), to taste
Please see Ingredient Notes above the recipe.
Cut your rice cakes (if needed) and soak in hot water for 10 minutes. Chop onions and spring onions while the rice cakes are soaking.
Into a large pan add all the marinade ingredients and mix well. Place on a high heat and bring to the boil.
Add the rice cakes and onions (the wedges should quickly break down into fat slices), and boil for 4-5 minutes.
Reduce the heat and continue to simmer until the sauce starts to thicken.
Add the tofu puffs, spring onions and sesame seeds and stir well to coat thoroughly in the sauce. Cook for a further 2-3 minutes to ensure everything is piping hot.
Serve as is or over rice for a double rice feast!
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