Tteokguk is a popular Korean rice cake soup enjoyed by many for Korean New Year’s Day. Soft and chewy rice cakes are simmered in a rich, flavorful broth of beef and vegetables. This traditional Korean soup is the ultimate comfort food, and perfect for any time of the year.

A bowl of tteokguk garnished with beef and egg.

My fondest childhood memories of New Year’s Day in Korea always started a few days before the actual New Year. We would begin our celebrations by preparing a special dish, tteokguk, a Korean rice cake soup, a couple of days in advance

Each year, my mother would take a hefty bag of rice to our local mill. Hours later, she would come back with these hot, log-like rice cakes called garaetteok (가래떡). She’d place them in a large bucket, balance it on her head, and carefully walk home.

I loved eating these garaetteok when I was a kid. They were best fresh with a bit of honey – so chewy and yummy.

She would let the rice cakes harden for a couple of days, making them easier to slice. Then, on New Year’s Day, we cut them into thin rounds. These rice cakes were then used to make a savory beef tteokguk, a soup that is a New Year tradition in most Korean households.

Korean rice cake soup in beef broth.

What is Tteokguk?

Tteokguk, also known as ddukguk (떡국), is a beloved Korean soup using thin, oval rice cake slices from garaetteok, a type of long, cylindrical rice cake.

This special New Year’s soup varies throughout Korea due to regional and family traditions. In the north, it’s made with a rich beef broth or bone-marrow broth. The south prefers a seafood-based stock, often using anchovy stock with dried sea kelp, or sometimes oysters.

Koreans eat tteokguk as it represents a new beginning of Seollal (Korean New Year, 설날). The white, oval shape of the rice cakes symbolizes health and prosperity for the new year. Also eating a bowl of tteokguk on this day is believed to add a year to one’s age, marking personal growth and renewal.

Tteokguk is often served alongside Mandu (Korean dumplings), embodying family unity and togetherness, crucial elements for a New Year.

Tteokguk vs Tteokbokki

Both are popular Korean dishes that feature rice cakes (tteok) but they are quite different in flavor and preparation. Tteokbokki uses cylindrical rice cakes cooked in a fiery, sweet, and savory gochujang-based sauce, popular as a street food or snack in Korea.

On the other hand, tteokguk is a soup made with thinly sliced rice cakes. You typically prepare it in a savory broth flavored with beef or anchovies and garnish it with eggs and seaweed. Its comforting, mild flavor makes it a celebrated dish of tradition

Tteokguk served with kimchi.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

This recipe for Korean rice cake soup stands out because it ensures a clear and flavorful broth, unlike the usual method where rice cakes are cooked directly in the beef stock. Cooking them this way often leads to a cloudy and starchy soup, as the rice starch from the cakes muddles the broth’s taste.

To savor a traditional tteokguk with a rich, clear broth, boil the rice cakes separately. After straining them, add them to your serving bowl and pour the hot beef broth over them. This simple step keeps the savory beef broth translucent and lets you enjoy an authentic Korean rice cake soup experience.

This technique is easy and only requires one extra pot for boiling the rice cakes. The result? A soup that not only looks more appealing but also tastes superior.

Recipe Ingredients

  • Beef: I recommend using brisket or flank steak for its lean cut.
  • Sliced rice cakes: Look for thin rice cake rounds or disks, either fresh or frozen. They are available in Asian markets or Korean stores. Look for rice cakes made with 100% rice flour.
  • Stock: Make a simple beef stock with radish onion, garlic, and dried sea kelp. It brings full of umami taste to the soup.
  • Flavoring: Korean soup soy sauce (gukganjang), Korean tuna sauce, and sesame oil
  • Egg: Traditionally tteokguk is garnished with Jidan (지단), which is made by strips of pan-fried egg whites and yolks.

How to Make Tteokguk

Start your recipe with making a good Korean beef stock. A chunk of beef brisket makes a very flavorful broth.

Making beef broth

Beef broth ingredients combined in a pot.

Mix beef, onion, garlic, radish, and dried sea kelp in a large pot with water.

  • If you can find Asian leek, add some including their roots, too. Some even like to add dried anchovies to give an umami flavor to the broth.
Sea kelp removed from beef broth in a pot.

As soon as the stock starts boiling, it’s crucial to take out the sea kelp and throw it away. Then, let the remaining ingredients simmer for 45-60 minutes on low heat.

After simmering, remove the beef and vegetables from the stock. Keep the stock and the beef, but discard the vegetables. Allow the beef to cool down for 10 minutes.

Two sauces for seasoning tteokguk rice cake soup.

Flavor the broth to your liking with Korean soup soy sauce (guk ganjang), Korean tuna sauce, and a pinch of salt. Then, keep the broth warm until ready to serve.

Shredded beef seasoned with aromatic ingredients.

Tear the beef into shreds and place them in a mixing bowl. Combine with Korean soup soy sauce, minced garlic, black pepper, sesame oil, and toasted sesame seeds. Mix everything thoroughly and set aside.

Cooking Rice Cake Soup

Rice cake rounds soaking in a bowl of water.

Soak the rice cakes in water for 15 minutes as you prepare the stock.

Rice cake rounds cooked in water.

Start by boiling a pot of water to cook the rice cakes over medium-high heat. Once boiling, add the rice cakes and boil them until they soften, which should take about 5 minutes. Then, use a mesh strainer to drain them and transfer the rice cakes into a serving bowl.

Egg Garnish: Optional

Typically Koreans like to garnish tteokguk with egg white and egg yolk topping called jidan (지단) for a better presentation. It’s optional and it won’t affect the taste of the soup. However garnishing with it will surely make your soup more appetizing and authentic.

Egg yolk fried in a skillet.

First, separate the egg white and yolk. Using a fork, lightly beat each part. Heat a nonstick skillet with a bit of oil over medium-low heat.

Gently pour the egg whites into the skillet, forming a thin layer, and spread it evenly with a spoon. Cook each side for about 1 minute, making sure not to brown the egg. Once done, set the cooked egg whites aside and repeat the process with the egg yolks.

Sliced egg yolk and white garnishes.

Cut the cooked egg whites and yolks into short, thin strips of white and yellow. Keep these aside for later use.

If you prefer an easier egg garnish, simply beat the eggs in a bowl then pour it in a circular motion to the boiling soup at the end and heat through–similar way of making egg drop soup.

Serving Suggestions

Beef broth poured on a bowl of boiled rice cakes.

Place the rice cakes in a bowl and ladle the hot beef broth over them. Top the soup with beef, egg strips, and chopped green onion.

Crumbled roasted seaweed is also a favorite topping for tteokguk. Finish by drizzling a few drops of sesame oil and a sprinkle of black pepper.

Serve the soup immediately, with a side of kimchi.

Other Korean New Year’s Day Food

Explore popular Korean New Year Foods celebrated during the festivities. While some dishes require advanced cooking skills, most are easy to prepare at home.

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Tteokguk, Koran rice cake soup in a bowl, garnished with eggs.

Easy Tteokguk (Korean Rice Cake Soup)

Tteokguk is a popular Korean rice cake soup enjoyed for Korean New Year’s Day. Soft and chewy rice cakes are simmered in a rich, flavorful broth of beef and vegetables. Perfect comfort food any time.
5 from 3 ratings

Ingredients

For beef stock

For beef seasoning

For rice cake soup

  • 2 lb (900 g) rice cakes
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 sheets roasted seaweed, crumbled, optional
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 eggs, separated, to garnish, optional

Instructions 

To make the beef stock

  • Combine beef, radish, dried sea kelp, onion, and garlic in a large pot of water and bring it to boil. When the stock begins to boil, it is important to remove the sea kelp and discard. Continue to simmer the rest for 45-60 minutes over low heat. Remove the beef and vegetables and reserve the stock. Discard the vegetables but not the beef. Let the beef cool for 10 minutes.
  • Season the broth with Korean soup soy sauce, Korean tuna sauce, and salt according to your taste. Keep the broth warm.

To season the beef

  • Shred the beef, collecting it in a mixing bowl. Add Korean soup soy sauce, minced garlic, black pepper, sesame oil, and toasted sesame seeds. Toss well and set aside.

To cook the rice cakes

  • Soak the rice cakes in water for 15 minutes while you are making the stock. To cook the rice cakes, bring a pot of water to boil. Add the rice cakes and cook until they are soft over medium heat, about 5 minutes. Strain the rice cakes with a mash strainer and place them in a serving bowl.

Optional egg garnish

  • Separate egg whites and egg yolks. Lightly beat each egg part with a fork. Heat a lightly oiled nonstick skillet over medium low heat. Pour a thin layer of egg whites and spread around the skillet with a spoon. Cook each side briefly, about 1 minute. (Do not brown the egg.) Set the cooked egg whites aside, then do the same with the egg yolks. Slice the whites and yolks into short, thin white and yellow strips.

To serve

  • Pour the hot beef broth over the rice cakes in a serving bowl and top with egg topping and chopped green onion.
  • Crumbled roasted seaweed. Drizzle a few drops of sesame oil, and sprinkle black pepper. Serve immediately, with kimchi on the side.
Calories: 755kcal, Carbohydrates: 128g, Protein: 31g, Fat: 12g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 5g, Trans Fat: 0.01g, Cholesterol: 101mg, Sodium: 636mg, Potassium: 798mg, Fiber: 7g, Sugar: 3g, Vitamin A: 122IU, Vitamin C: 4mg, Calcium: 71mg, Iron: 4mg
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