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Spicy Korean Rice Cakes(떡볶이), the street food of 50million Koreans

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April 30, 2010

Spicy Korean Rice Cakes(떡볶이), the street food of 50million Koreans


Everyone has their own childhood food cravings. It is the food they grow up with and it reminds you the memories of the past as you eat them. I grow up eating lots..., I mean lots of this dish. This is one of my favorite snacks when I was a teenager (I have lots of other favorites, too). This dish is called Ddukppoki (떡볶이), the spicy Korean rice cakes.
 As a teenage girl in middle/high school(I attended girls only school, no boys there except teachers), I had to wear school uniforms, white blouse with black overall skirt and navy canvas shoes. The skirt should cover your knees completely. No girls liked wearing uniforms. There was no unique individual style whatsoever. Every girl looked exactly the same, only different in sizes.
Our school had very strict rules over its dress code. Not only the dress, the hair style too. Every one had a exact same hair style.  A simple black hair pin on one side of your head to hold the hair and the straight hair line that should sit just below your ears. No more than 1" below the ears! No bangs, No make up, and No perms are allowed. If you violate any of this, you will get kicked out of school, period! 
There are lots of fun stories that associated with this dress/hair code, but I will share the stories some other time.

Things change! Korean school girls these days still wear uniforms but they get to have free hair styles and some even wears make up.
I don't think I ever showed my teenage photos to my piano man. I looked hideous on the photo, and every girl did look horrendous as well, whether they are very pretty or less pretty. It is the one evidence of my past that I would like to bury on the ground forever!

Anyway, somehow the subject matter(the food) went to a different direction. Let's talk about this rice cake. This is the ultimate snack(can be a meal) for all Korean teenagers or anybody. I won't be lying if I say 50million Koreans grow up eating this dish. As teenagers we were always hungry when school was over in the late afternoon. There was a big market square on the way to our neighborhood from the school. My friends and I often stopped by one of these rice cake vendors and stuffed our belly with this spicy goddess, the soft yet chewy rice cakes slobbered with spicy chili paste gochujang sauce!.... along with other things such as deep fried calamaris, vegetable fritters(Tuigim, 튀김), fish cakes(Odeng, 오뎅), etc... They were so tasty as I am thinking back and I crave them often these days.

So I would like to share with you how you can recreate this dish at your own kitchen. This can be quite spicy if you are not used to the spicy Korean food. Burning sensation in your mouth! Besides serving this dish can be a good way to revenge your husband or boyfriend who forgot the important date... Let him burn!

Introducing the cast members from the top left ;
Fish cakes, rice cakes, pepper, ketchup,
Korean chili paste, sugar, dried sea kelp, dried anchovies, garlic, leek, cabbage.

First, you dunk anchovies and sea kelp in the water to make stock.
Let it boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
The stock will get more intensified as you let it sit, about 15 minutes.

Remove our ocean friends from the pot.

Reserve 4 cups of stock.
This is a basic stock for most Korean soups or stews.
The queen of Korean flavors! My royal highness!

Soak the rice cakes in the water to soften.
But do you see the oil floating on top?
They are coated with oil to prevent them from sticking for packaging.
If you don't want the oil,

just blanch in the boiling water for 30 seconds.
This is an optional step.

Dice the cabbage beautifully like I did.

Slice the leek as you're humming like a bird.

 Chop the garlic as you hit the high note on O Sole Mio!

This is optional but you will like the addition of the fish cakes.
Use your ruler to cut exact dimension like I did.
Just kidding!

Pour the reserved the stock in a non stick pan.
Add chili paste to the pan.
Now, if your husband or boyfriend forgot your important anniversary, 
add 4Tbsp chili paste.
If he forgot your birthday..., then add 6Tbsp or more!

Smear the paste with spoon to mix in with the stock.

Add sugar and mix well.

Place the pan over medium heat. Add rice cakes and cabbage.

Let them boil first and simmer over medium-low heat for 10 min,
until the rice cakes and the cabbage get soften.
The sauce will get slightly thicken, too.

 Add the fish cakes and garlic. Continue to simmer for 10 min,
until the sauce gets really thickened for your liking.

Add the leek and mix in well.

Now this is something you don't have to add but I recommend you to try.
Add 1 or 2 Tbsp of ketchup at the end.
It will bring subtle tang to the sauce and adds beautiful deep orange color.

Lastly crack some peppers and sprinkle some sesame seeds.
Stir them well and it is ready to serve.

Sometimes I like being an happy pig!
I ate the whole plate shown in the photo below,
...and burped a couple of times after... Oh, my!
and thought about my high school friends.
Where are they now?
I am sure they all became Ajumma (아줌마) and live somewhere in Korea.

An important Korean vocabulary to learn!
---a married middle aged lady with permed short hair, walking in flip flops, 
perhaps with a visor on her head, talking and laughing loudly,
and carrying a Louis Vuitton bag.

If you have a Korean girl friend, call her "Ajumma" and see how she responds...
You will love it!

But don't you dare to call me Ajumma!

Spicy Korean rice cakes
serves 4

4 1/2C water
8-10 dried anchovies
1 piece of dried sea kelp, about 4" long
1 1/3 lb (600g) rice cakes, usually comes as frozen
4-5T Korean red chili paste (gochujang)
3T sugar
3 slices flat fish cakes cut into big chunks, optional
1/2 cabbage diced
1 leek, white and light green part sliced
1 garlic chopped
1-2T ketchup, optional
1t sesame seeds roasted
dash pepper

To make stock pour water in a pot, and add anchovies and sea kelp. Boil first and then reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let it sit for another 10-15 minutes to get the full flavor. Reserve 4 cups.

Soak the rice cake in the water for 5 minutes. If you want to get rid of the coated oil, blanch them in the boiling water for 30 seconds.

Pour the stock to a non stick pan and add the chili paste and sugar. Mix well. Add rice cakes and cabbage. Boil over medium heat, reduce heat to medium-low, simmer uncovered until the cabbage gets soften and the sauce gets thicken.

Add the fish cakes, if you wish, and garlic. Continue to simmer for another 10 minutes until the sauce gets well thickened to your liking.

Add ketchup and stir well. Sprinkle some peppers and sesame seeds. Good to serve hot right out of pan. Napkins are a must!

Printable recipe

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At May 1, 2010 at 1:42 PM , Anonymous Eunice said...

While I didn't grow up in Korea, I definitely grew up in a household where ddukppoki was a staple. Now, whenever I go home to visit the family, my mom makes me be the one to prepare and make this dish! Mmmm, I may have to go buy some dduk tonight and make it tomorrow!

At May 5, 2010 at 7:30 PM , Blogger eatingclubvancouver_js said...

I'm bookmarking this recipe: thanks!

At May 6, 2010 at 2:16 AM , Blogger beyondkimchee said...

Hi Eunice and eating vancouver
Thanks for visiting my blog. Hope your Ddukppoki turned out good.

At May 20, 2010 at 7:50 AM , Blogger Kat said...

I can't wait to try making this tasty-looking dish!!

At July 30, 2010 at 9:19 AM , Anonymous Laura said...

Thank you so much for posting this recipe! My Dad lived in Korea and when I went to visit him this was my absolute favorite dish. Now I can't wait to get the ingredients together and make it for my boyfriend.

At July 30, 2010 at 7:33 PM , Blogger beyondkimchee said...

Hi Laura
I would love to hear how you and your boyfriend like it. Thanks for visiting my blog.

At September 24, 2010 at 5:51 PM , Anonymous Christy said...

Hi! Thanks for posting the recipe. I just left our local Asian market with a bag of refrigerated rice cakes and had not the slightest clue of how to go about cooking them. I'm heading out to the grocery store now to pick up the rest of the ingredients for your 'Spicy Korean Rice Cakes.' :)

At November 24, 2010 at 11:36 PM , Anonymous wensdelight said...

I love all types of Korean food! This looks so good! I'm glad that I found your blog!

Does the cooked rice cakes keep well overnight in fridge? If reheated will the texture change?

At November 28, 2010 at 6:10 AM , Anonymous A box of kitchen said...

oh I always love the redness in Korean dishes. So appetizing! Thanks for sharing this great recipe! About the rice cake, is it the same with mochi?

At January 7, 2011 at 6:03 AM , Anonymous Tina said...

Hi Holly,
Thanks for your fast help! Actually I had the same frozen ones as shown in your picture. But when I soak them they crack up. I also made tteok myself (poor attempt) and froze them for later and I have the same problem with them. Maybe some kind of storage problem? Or it depends on the temperature of the water?. Do you let them defrost slowly before you soak them?

I will experiment some more tonight for dinner! :-)

At January 7, 2011 at 6:31 PM , Anonymous dining table said...

This is what I always eat when we went to Korea! It is really delicious especially the spicy one! Koreans have this really nice taste when it comes to sauces.

At January 9, 2011 at 12:34 AM , Anonymous Buffy said...

Hello i wanted to know,is there another way to make this without using fish cakes and dried anchovies,i dont eat any type of seafood,but always wanted to try rice cakes :)

At January 9, 2011 at 12:43 PM , Anonymous beyondkimchee said...

Sure, you can use just plain water, vegetable or chicken stock. It will taste slightly different but still good. You can skip the fish cake. I sometimes add dry ramen noodles or sweet potato noodles (the Japchae noodle). It will be a carb explosion! :)

At January 9, 2011 at 12:44 PM , Anonymous beyondkimchee said...

Thanks! Everybody loves rice cakes. It is spicy but so good!

At January 10, 2011 at 12:00 AM , Anonymous Buffy said...

thank you so much :)

At May 5, 2011 at 1:51 PM , Anonymous meri said...

Can I use some water and fish sauce instead of making the anchovie stock?

At May 5, 2011 at 2:51 PM , Anonymous beyondkimchee said...

Yes, you can use water instead of anchovy stock. But DO NOT add the fish
sauce, it will make the dish very very salty.

At May 17, 2011 at 9:25 PM , Anonymous ch11k11 said...

Thank you so much for posting this I can't wait to try making it ^-^
If I were to make a bigger batch, say for about 8 people, I just have to double everything, right? Including the amount of anchovies for the stock? And also, can I skip the sea kelp and just have the anchovies?

At May 17, 2011 at 10:04 PM , Anonymous beyondkimchee said...

You can double the recipe but reduce the amount of the stock and the chili paste a little bit first (by 1 1/2X instead of 2X). You can always add more if you need.
You don't need to add kelp. Anchovies alone can bring wonderful flavor.
Have fun making them and let me know how it turned out.

At May 23, 2011 at 12:45 PM , Anonymous ctall said...

I just found your blog and love it!  I lived in Korea for a year and half and miss Korean food.  I laughed outloud at your description of an described them perfectly!!  I plan on using your tutorials to make some of that yummy goodness :) 

At May 26, 2011 at 11:41 AM , Anonymous Cynthia said...

lol, can I change the fish cakes and stock for chicken, because I'm allergic to sea food. 

At May 26, 2011 at 3:39 PM , Anonymous beyondkimchee said...

Hi Cynthia
Yes, you can change to chicken stock, but use low sodium one. You might want to reduce the chili passte just a little since most store bought chicken stocks have lots of sodium in them.

At August 12, 2011 at 11:39 AM , Anonymous Ninetyonedays said...

I am glad I came upon this recipe, very authentic...  how my Mom makes it too!  I like your style of presenting this recipe.  You are funny and creative :)

At August 13, 2011 at 8:39 AM , Anonymous Ga said...

Hi, I just made this dish now but found that it was too watery. I think maybe I put too much water in the pan. Love your blog.

At August 13, 2011 at 11:21 PM , Anonymous beyondkimchee said...


Hmmm, I'm sorry to hear that it was watery. It should be somewhat saucy but not watery though. I wonder it there was too much stock/water. Reduce the amount of liquid a little and cook up the liquid over higher heat, UNCOVERED. The sauce should eventually thickens and be able to coat the rice cakes over all. Hope this helps. Please let me know how it turns out next time.

At September 5, 2011 at 1:14 AM , Anonymous Lisa Mochie said...

I like the symbols you have on the site. What are they called? Would like to decorate my walls with them.

At September 25, 2011 at 12:10 PM , Anonymous Dramaquin said...

I Loved your blog. Not only the dishes looks inviting but very entertaining too.  I've been dying for rice cake since last week.  Went to H-Mart in Irvine while visiting my daughter at UCI and was looking forward to buy the spicy fried dubokki but they were out of it at the ready cooked section.  Ended up buying the rice ovalette and gochujang sauce but not sure how to cook them until I saw your blog.  I am going to try to cook them today. Your recipe uses the long rice cake, is there any difference from using the oval type rice cake?  Before your blog I found an Ahjushi's blog but he didn't use enchovies and kelp but instead uses chicken stock.  

At September 26, 2011 at 7:05 AM , Anonymous beyondkimchee said...

Hi there,
You can use chicken stock but it will bring slightly different flavor. Use low sodium chicken stock since the chili paste already has some sodium in it. Also you can use the flat rice cake slices as well. But reduce the amount of liquid into 1/2. The will get cooked faster.

At October 14, 2011 at 4:32 PM , Anonymous E Pancrazi said...

Great dish... I made some substitutions, using chinese xo sauce instead of anchovies, etc... still turned out delicious anyway!

At October 30, 2011 at 10:35 PM , Anonymous lafemme215 said...

Hi! First of all, i would like to say thank you for making this blogspot! i absolutely think your dishes look amazing and would like to try these rice cakes as soon as i can, i am not near a korean market and i currently have 'chili paste with soy bean oil' can i substitute this spice for the korean chili paste??

At October 31, 2011 at 12:12 AM , Anonymous beyondkimchee said...

Hmmm..., I have to say NO for substituting chili paste with soybean oil for Korean chili paste. They are different. If you are not near Korean market, try ordering online. Amazon carries Korean stuffs and Hmart has their online shop as well.

At December 3, 2011 at 7:12 AM , Anonymous kim hanna said...

totally awesome...its very great since i wanted to learn it...thanks to you..beyondkimchee...nice name huh

At January 13, 2012 at 7:26 AM , Anonymous Nanotayy said...

Hello, I am from Msia. do u have any idea what to replace the korean red chilli paste? This is because I couldnt find it here :(( found ur blog while looking for spicy korean rice cake recipes. hhehe :) 

At January 13, 2012 at 8:35 PM , Anonymous beyondkimchee said...

I found Korean chili paste at many cold storage stores in KL.
Unfortunately there is no substitute for it since it is unique to Korean cuisine.

At January 21, 2012 at 7:40 PM , Anonymous SunnyBooBoo said...

do you have to make/use stock?

At January 22, 2012 at 8:41 PM , Anonymous beyondkimchee said...

You can use plain water. However stock will bring more flavor to the dish.

At March 10, 2012 at 11:38 PM , Anonymous Luv-Izza said...

where can i find the rice cake? am from malaysia and i love korean food ~wink~
do you have any idea where to find it here instead of making the rice cake.

At March 11, 2012 at 7:19 AM , Anonymous beyondkimchee said...

There are several Korean groceries in Ampang and Mont Kiara. You should be able to find some there.

At April 6, 2012 at 6:10 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I here in saudi arabia.i love korea and korean food.i will try to make a home-made rice cake.thanks for the information and God bless you always.bye(@!@)

At April 20, 2012 at 10:03 AM , Anonymous Rochon Karen said...

Thank you for the delightful sharing of your school days.  Only the catholic schools required uniforms when I was a girl.  My son will love your spicy rice cakes.  I cook mostly Korean food as it is so healthy.  My only regret is that I can never be accepted by the Koreans because this ajumma is too caucasian.  I have watched over 96 Korean Drama series on Crunchyroll and Hulu and love the Korean humor, singers, scripts and music. 

At April 30, 2012 at 11:29 AM , Anonymous iris-lpf said...

No other food evokes fonder memories of my childhoold in Korea than Dukboki, which I ate practically everyday after school with a gaggle of my childhood friends.  I've made different variations in the past but never thought to put ketchup and it did add a nice tang!  Thank you for this recipe and I love, love, love your beautiful blog.

At May 4, 2012 at 5:54 AM , Anonymous carol said...



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