Gungjung Tteokbokki (Stir-fried Rice Cake with Beef and Vegetables)

 

Today, I am so excited to collaborate with Lisa from Korean American Mommy in her Around the World feature on Korean cuisine. Lisa is a stay at home mom who is also an incredibly talented blogger. Her blog is full of innovative family-friendly recipes and beautiful photos. Head over to Korean American Mommy and read about all the wonderful Korean dishes featured.

When Lisa asked me to write a post on a dish incorporating its history, tteokbokki came to my mind. It is a beloved Korean dish with many variations and a rich history. Literally translated “stir-fried rice cake”, tteokbokki is made with garaetteok, a cylinder-shaped white rice cake. In January, garaetteok is abundant in Korean kitchens because it is used to make tteokguk (soup made with rice cake slices), which is a big part of the New Year feast. The custom of eating this white rice cake is said to have originated from ancient times as a ritual to start off the New Year with a clean body and mind. The remaining rice cake is typically used to make tteokbokki. Nowadays, garaetteok is readily available on market shelves all year around.

The best-known tteokbokki is braised in a spicy red sauce. This is the type you will find everywhere on the streets of Korea. Yes, it is the dish I grew up eating, and I had a lot of fun eating it from the street carts as an after-school snack.
 
This spicy version 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 spicy gochujang sauce instantly became popular as an affordable comfort snack. Over time, the dish has continued to evolve. Other ingredients such as fishcake, ramen, dumplings, egg, and seafood have been added, and its popularity has steadily grown. Just to give you an idea, recently a research institute dedicated to tteokbokki has been established with a serious amount of money being invested by the Korean government. The ultimate goal of the institute is to further develop and globalize this dish. There are even tteokbokki festivals in Korea.

The recipe I have here is the traditional version of tteokbokki, called gungjung tteokbokki. Gungjung means “royal court in Korean, and this version dates back to the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). As the name suggests, it was part of the royal cuisine and regarded as a high class dish – an interesting contrast to the modern version which is basically street food.
 
One story behind the origin of this royal dish is that it was inspired by japchae (stir-fried starch noodles with vegetables) and created to help regain the King’s appetite. In fact, gungjung tteokbokki is also known as tteokjapchae perhaps because it is made in a similar fashion to japchae. Unlike today’s spicy version, the traditional version is mildly flavored with soy sauce and stir-fried rather than braised. It is typically made with beef, mushroom, and fresh or dried vegetables. This traditional version is simple to make and can be served as a snack, appetizer or light meal.
 

Ingredients:
1 pound garaetteok/tteokbokki tteok*, about 2-inch long pieces
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
(*Tteokbokki tteok is garaetteok made thinner. If using regular size garaetteok, quarter them lengthwise into thinner pieces.)

4 ounces lean beef like sirloin or rib eye
4 or 5 shiitake mushrooms (dried or fresh)
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons rice wine (optional)
1 clove garlic minced
pinch pepper

1 medium size carrot
1/2 medium size sweet onion
1/2 medium size zucchini
salt and pepper to taste
vegetable or canola oil

Sauce:
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
1 garlic clove minced

Optional garnish:
ginkgo nuts or pine nuts

Bring water (about 1 quart) to a boil in a medium size pot. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and the rice cake pieces. Boil until all the pieces float to the top, 2 to 3 minutes. The time required will vary depending on the condition of rice cakes. The rice cake will be very soft, but it will become harder as it cools. Drain them out with a sieve. Do NOT rinse them. Immediately mix in soy sauce and sesame oil. Set aside.

Thinly slice the beef into 2-inch long strips. Cut stems off the mushrooms and slice into 1/4-inch thin strips. Mix in soy sauce, sesame, oil, sugar, rice wine, garlic and a pinch of pepper. Marinate while preparing the other ingredients.

Cut the zucchinis in half lengthwise and then thinly slice crosswise. Generously sprinkle salt over sliced zucchinis and set aside for 10 – 15 minutes. Squeeze out excess liquid from salted zucchini by hand. Thinly slice onion and carrot into 2-inch long pieces.

In a lightly oiled skillet, separately sauté each vegetable. Sprinkle a pinch of salt over the onion and carrot, not the zucchini. Set aside.

In the same skillet, cook the beef and mushrooms. Add the rice cake and sauté together for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the sautéed vegetables and the remaining soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, sesame seeds and garlic. Combine everything well. Add additional soy sauce or sugar as necessary.

Serve warm.

 

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Comments

  1. What a nice recipe! It looks so delicious and comforting. I wish I could have some right now!

    I think I have had that rice cake in California when my mom's neighbor gave her some. Is it similar to Japanese mochi? The one I ate was. The problem is that I've never seen it in the Asian markets here. Though I'm sure they would have it somewhere (I'm in NY)!
  2. Love this recipe! And thanks for collaborating!
  3. I have always loved Royal palace style ttokbokki. Your recipe sounds very delicious and the colors are gorgeous, which is very important factor for royal cuisine. I had a great time participating as well. Keep up the good work!
  4. I enjoyed reading the history about this dish, thank you! I've tried a chewy rice cake that looks very similar to the one used in your dish, but in a hot pot style soup that my Korean friend from high school made for us once. I loved the chewiness of the rice cake.
  5. Great recipe! Glad we could collaborate on this Korean meal. Rice cakes are so traditional for New Years and while the Chinese ones are a little bit different I still love the meatier Korean ones. In fact just had some the other day.
  6. This looks so delicious! Thank you for posting this.

    Probably six or eight years ago, I went to a cooking class where they made this, and it was the first time I'd ever had a mushroom I liked. I'm now a huge fan of mushrooms. I've since wanted to have this sort of tteokbokki again, but I've only ever been able to find the spicy type, and I couldn't remember what this type was called (to differentiate between this and the red, spicy kind).

    This has made my day.
  7. This looks so fresh and healthy! Thanks for sharing :-)
  8. Oh I just KNOW I would love this! Looks delicious!
  9. This sounds wonderful, very new to me and I would sure love to try this!
  10. What a classic Korean stirfry dish! Thanks for sharing this recipe :)
  11. We eat rice cake in a different way of preparation, this recipe looks very interesting. I am sure it tastes as good as it looks. I would like to invite you to join in my Valentine's Giveaways - http://quaypocooks.blogspot.com/2011/01/i-give-you-my-love-on-valentines-day.html. Have some fun!
  12. Hi Hyoson! Late response to your comment, but it's about the same distance to the philippines as it is to Korea (just a little further). Maybe about 15 hours there and about 11 or 12 back. It's just that we went directly north (about 2.5 hrs) to taiwan for a layover and then from taiwan came home to LA. :)
  13. Hyosun - I've only had the spicy red sauce tteokbokki but I know I would love this version too. It really looks appetising! Thanks for the recipe and the story behind the dish :)
  14. I love tteokbokki and have mainly had the spicy variety. Your dish sounds wonderful, and I love that you shared the history behind the dish. I also love the contrast between the the high class original version and that it has morphed into street food. The evolution of different cuisines and when and why they evolve is so fascinating...
  15. Melissa - Sorry about the delayed response, but this type of rice cake is sold in Korean markets. I know there is one near 32nd street and Broadway in Manhattan (aka Korea town) and several in Flushing. Japanese mochi is made of glutinous rice, but garaetteok is made of regular medium grain rice and has meatier texture.
  16. I tried this recipe today with my brown rice cake. Since I have some left over ground turkey, I use this instead of beef. It still turn out delicious. My husband loved it. I love this recipe, will make it again. Thanks for sharing this recipe with us.
  17. mskutin - Thanks for trying my recipe. I am so happy to hear you liked it. Hope to hear more good news soon.
  18. how can i make a home-made tteokbokki? because i can't find it anywhere in my country... so i thought i had to make it by myself.... do you know the recipe?
  19. haverine - I've been lucky enough to live where Korean ingredients are readily available, so I do not make rice cakes myself. I did some research for you and found this. Hope it helps.

    http://aeriskitchen.com/2010/04/homemade-sticy-rice-cakes-for-tteokbokki-and-tteokguk/#more-4509
  20. Matthew says:
    mmm, this recipe looks so delicious :)
    I was wondering, is it possible to make enough of this to serve as a meal for 4 people? If so, how much should I increase the quantity of each ingredient by?
    • I will say this recipe is 2 - 4 servings as a main dish. So, depends on what else you're serving, this might be enough. If you want to be safe or you know they will be eating a lot, you'll need to double it. Hope this helps. Thanks for stopping by!
  21. Anonymous says:
    Fantastic recipe! We are vegetarian, so generally can't eat Korean food out. We substituted vegetarian beef strips and the recipe turned out perfectly. Many many thanks!