Tteokbokki is a popular Korean street food featuring satisfyingly chewy rice cakes smothered in a thick red sauce that is spicy, sweet and umami packed. I discovered it through K-dramas, where I kept seeing characters slinging bags of this red stuff home for a late-night snack. I was hooked from first taste. There are variations in the ones I’ve had – for example, varying in spiciness (from a nice solid kick to raging hot), the amount of sauce the rice cakes are swimming in, and the different add-ins. Some popular add-ins are fish cake slices, boiled eggs, sausages, ramen, dumplings and cheese. Depending on what you put in it, it can be a snack or meal.
I developed this cheese tteokbokki (치즈 떡뽁이) recipe with help from my friend, Gana, who moved here from Seoul last year. She introduced me to Korean rice syrup, a common ingredient in many Korean dishes including tteokbokki. According to Gana, you can substitute with honey or sugar if you don’t have it. Once you acquire the ingredients from a Korean grocery store or online, tteokbokki is really easy and worth making at home, especially because you can control the heat level so you don’t unwittingly set your tongue ablaze.
The amount of gochugaru in this recipe depends on taste preference and intensity of your gochugaru (sun-dried versus machine-dried, how long it’s been on the store shelf, etc.) so be sure to adjust accordingly. I consider this recipe mild. For reference, my 8- and 11-year-olds love this recipe made with 2 teaspoons of gochugaru and enjoy that heat level as long as a glass of water is close at hand. Many tteokbokki recipes are a lot spicier!
Look for sun-dried gochugaru (labeled "taeyang gochugaru" or “taeyangcho”) imported from Korea, considered the best in terms of flavour and spiciness.
In a small bowl, mix sauce ingredients.
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.
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.
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.
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 reserved scallions and sesame seeds. Serve immediately. To reheat leftovers, microwave on high until heated through, or add a splash of water or broth and reheat on the stove over medium heat until heated through.