A dish of rice cakes soaked in a fiery fermented red chilli
sauce, tteokbokki (tot-pok-ki) was once served in Korea’s
royal courts, but is now a humble street snack.

The first recorded tteokbokki recipe appeared in a 19thcentury cookbook, but as a dish served at the royal courts it dates back much further (it gets a mention in a medical book from around AD 1460). Through the years there have been many incarnations but the current ‘street’ version was first made in 1953. The Korean War had ended, Seoul was recovering and a lady named Ma Bok-rim started selling tteokbokki out of Sindang-dong as cheap comfort food.


You’ll need
500g (1lb) tteokbokki tteok
(rice cakes)
100g (3½lb) eomuk (fish cake),
150g (5oz) cabbage, chopped
2 spring onions (scallions),
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and
finely chopped
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp sesame seeds (optional)

3 cups (750mL) anchovy stock
(from stock powder) or
3 tbs gochujang (red chilli
1 tbs gochugaru (red chilli
pepper flakes) or regular
chilli flakes
1 tbs soy sauce, plus
additional to taste
1 tbs sugar, plus extra to taste

NOTE These ingredients
are all available at Asian or
Korean grocers.

Cooking Method
1 For the sauce: pour the anchovy stock or water into a medium-sized pan. Add the sauce ingredients and bring to a boil. Make sure the paste is dissolved. Reduce the heat to medium.
2 Add the rice cakes and boil until soft (roughly 7–10 minutes).
3 Reduce to a simmer to thicken the sauce. Keep stirring to prevent the rice cakes from burning on the bottom of the pan.
4 Add the fish cakes, cabbage, spring onions and garlic.
5 Simmer for an additional 5 minutes.
6 Season to taste with additional sugar and soy sauce, bearing in mind that the gochujang itself is salty.
7 Add the sesame oil, stir through and dish out in bowls. Top with sesame seeds if desired.

Tasting notes
Fodder for kings and officials, the original dish was chock-full of the good stuff: vegetables, meat, gingko nuts and walnuts. The modern street version has little by way of nutrition, yet the masses love it, and it’s easy to see the appeal: Koreans rock up to street carts and are served up a steaming plate of tteokbokki, often to share. Stick your skewer into one of the cylindrical rice cakes, pop it in your mouth and you’ll be hit with a multitude of flavours. The saltiness of the fermented soy bean, the kick of the red chillies and the chewy texture… it’s magically warming in winter. Be sure to have a cold drink standing by to douse the flames!

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