Tteokbokki, a spicy stir-fried rice cake dish, is a highly popular Korean street food and a delicious comfort food you can easily make at home. The spicy, slightly sweet, and chewy rice cakes are simply addictive!
What is tteokbokki?
Tteokbokki (or ddeokbokki), 떡볶이, is a beloved Korean dish with many variations and a rich history. Literally translated as “stir-fried rice cake”, tteokbokki is made with garaetteok, a cylinder-shaped white rice cake. This spicy rice cake dish is enormously popular as a street food and also often enjoyed at home.
Unlike gungjung tteokbokki, which has been around for hundreds of years, the red spicy tteokbokki has a relatively short history. It was developed in 1953, the year the Korean War ended, by a woman named Ma Bok-rim in the Sindang-dong neighborhood in Seoul. The chewy rice cake in a spicy gochujang sauce instantly became popular as an affordable comfort snack.
The dish has continued to evolve over time. Other ingredients such as fishcake, ramen, dumplings, egg, seafood and even cheese have been added, and it has become highly commercialized by small vendors and restaurants.
By the time I was growing up as a child, tteokbokki had become quite popular as a street food. The tteokbokki I grew up with was in its classic form without all the add-ins you see today. I have fond memories of eating it from street carts or market stalls as an after-school snack.
This tteokbokki recipe was originally posted in March 2012. I’ve updated it here with more information, new photos and minor changes to the recipe.
Tteokbokki rice cake
Garaetteok (가래떡), a cylinder-shaped white rice cake, is used in various ways in Korea. The thick type is sliced into thin oval shapes for making tteokguk (rice cake soup). The thinner, shorter type is used for tteokbokki, hence the name tteokbokki tteok (떡볶이떡).
You can use either one for this recipe, but the thick type needs to be cut thinner and shorter for this recipe, or it will take much longer to cook.
Tteokbokki rice cakes are sold freshly made, refrigerated, or frozen at Korean markets. They come in various shapes and sizes. Needless to say, locally made fresh ones are the best ones to use, but good quality refrigerated ones are fine as well. Avoid buying frozen ones: they tend to be dry, easy to crack and not chewy.
The spicy tteokbokki sauce is usually made with a combination of gochujang (고추장, Korean red chili pepper paste) and gochugaru (고추가루, Korean red chili pepper flakes). Some people simply make it with gochujang, and some only use gochugaru.
If you don’t like it too spicy, simply use gochujang without any red chili pepper flakes. To make it really spicy, adding more red chili pepper flakes is the way to increase the heat level without altering the saltiness and sweetness.
In this updated recipe, I provided another ratio of gochujang and gochugaru for you to try. It gives a cleaner-tasting spicy kick.
In any case, be aware that the level of spiciness varies widely among different brands of gochujang and gochugaru.
As mentioned above, other ingredients such as ramen, dumplings, boiled eggs, seafood, and even cheese are often added to this dish.
Here, I kept the recipe simple with eomuk (fish cake), green cabbage, and scallions, which is how we used to eat tteokbokki growing up.
Anchovy broth is typically used for a depth of flavor, but you can simply use water if you like. For vegan tteokbokki, use water or vegetable broth and omit the fish cake.
More tteokbokki variations
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Tteokbokki – Spicy stir-fried rice cakes
Spicy stir-fried Korean rice cakes
- 1 pound tteokbokki tteok (떡볶이 떡 (about 24 3-inch long rice cake pieces) – See note.)
- 1 sheet eomuk 어묵 (fish cake – aka oden)
- 4 ounces green cabbage (yangbaechu, 양배추)
- 1 – 2 scallions
- 3 cups anchovy broth (or water)
- 3 tablespoons Korean red chili pepper paste (gochujang, 고추장 – see note))
- 1 – 3 teaspoons Korean red chili pepper flakes (gochugaru, 고추가루 preferably finely ground) – see note)
- 1 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons sugar ((or use 1 tablespoon if you like it less sweet))
- 1 tablespoon corn syrup (or 1 more tablespoon sugar)
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- Make anchovy broth (see note). Soak the rice cakes for about 20 minutes if hardened or refrigerated. Cut the fish cake, cabbage, and scallions into about 2-inch long pieces.
- Add the anchovy broth (or water) to a large pan. Stir in the sauce ingredients. Bring it to a boil over medium high heat, stirring to dissolve the red chili pepper paste (gochujang).
- Add the rice cakes. Boil until the rice cakes become very soft and the sauce is thickened, about 8 – 10 minutes. Stir frequently so the rice cakes don’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
- Add the vegetables and fish cakes. Continue to boil, stirring constantly, for an additional 4 – 6 minutes. Depending on rice cakes, you may need more time to reach a desired level of softness. Add more broth or water as necessary. Taste the sauce, and adjust the seasoning if needed. Serve immediately.
1. You can find tteokbokki rice cakes fresh, refrigerated, or frozen at Korean markets. Locally made fresh rice cakes are the best ones to use, but good quality refrigerated ones are okay too. Try avoiding frozen ones if you have other options.
2. Another combination I like that you should try: 2 tablespoons gochujang, 2 tablespoons finely ground gochugaru, and 1-1/2 tablespoons soy sauce. Everything else stays the same.
3. Finely ground gochugaru works better with this recipe. You can grind your normal gochugaru in a spice grinder to make it finer.
4. Tteokbokki doesn’t reheat well in the microwave. Reheat any leftovers, along with a little bit of broth or water, in a small pan over low heat.
5. This recipe is an update of the tteokbokki recipe that was originally posted in March 2012. I’ve updated it here with more information, new photos, and minor changes to the recipe.