Classic Tteokbokki: 20-Minute Korean Spicy Rice Cakes
Make classic tteokbokki, the spicy Korean rice cake dish, at home in just 20 minutes! This Korean street food favorite is easy to make with a full list of ingredients and helpful tips. Chewy rice cakes coated in homemade tteokbokki sauce is truly satisfying and almost addictive.
My recent journey through a lively Korean street market, indulging in spicy tteokbokki, was a vivid flashback to my childhood. The chewy rice cakes drenched in a tangy, slightly sweet, and spicy gochujang sauce reminded me of my younger days.
What is Tteokbokki?
A beloved dish in Korean cuisine, tteokbokki (떡볶이), often referred to as topokki or ddukbokki, is a spicy Korean rice cakes dish with flavorful concoction of cylindrical rice cakes.
Despite its direct translation – rice cake stir-fry – the cooking method primarily involves simmering these rice cakes in a gochujang-based sauce, often spiced up with gochugaru (Korean chili powder).
Different Varieties of Tteokbokki
Koreans love experimenting with tteokbokki. While the core remains the rice cakes (tteok), here are some trending versions:
- Rose tteokbokki – A visually alluring twist, this version combines gochujang with cream, reflecting a modern culinary trend.
- Buldak tteokbokki – A dare for spice lovers, this variant draws its heat from buldak instant ramen seasoning or potent chili pepper extract, capsaicin.
- Goong joong tteokboki – A milder version featuring soy sauce, veggies, and beef, historically served to Korean royalty.
- Girum tteokbokki – This particular spicy fried rice cake is with oil and doesn’t have any gravy-like sauce.
- Rabokki: Combine the best of both worlds with a fusion of instant noodles and Tteokbokki.
Rice Cakes (Tteok):
For the best spicy Korean rice cake experience, opt for short, finger-sized rice cakes crafted from 100% rice flour to ensure the best flavor and chewiness.
You may also find flat and round rice cakes at the stores, but these are better suited for Korean rice cake soup or stir-fries rather than dishes that require chewy tteok.
The sauce’s heart comprises Korean red pepper paste (gochujang), Korean chili flakes (gochugaru), soy sauce, and corn syrup. The sauce gains depth from anchovy stock, imparting an umami touch.
For the characteristic gloss and subtle sweetness, Korean Corn Syrup is the secret ingredient, but if unavailable, a tablespoon of sugar works wonders.
- Fish cake (eomuk): optional but recommended
- Asian leek (daepa): You can replace it with green onion
- Some like to add cabbage, onion, and garlic, but I like to keep it simple for the rice cake to stand out.
Recipe Success Tips
- Anchor the dish’s umami depth with Anchovy stock, and consider adding dried sea kelp.
- For a richer texture, opt for fine gochugaru (Korean fine chili powder). If you only have coarse gochugaru, grind it until finely blended. Storing extra in the fridge extends its shelf life up to a year.
How to make find chili powder: If you only have the coarse gochugaru, process it in a blender until very smooth and finely blended. You can skip this step if you want to, but you will see speckles of chili flakes on the rice cakes.
Note: I blended 1/2 cup of chili flakes although I only need 1 tablespoon for this recipe. I want to keep the rest in the fridge to use later when I make tteokbokki again, and to spice up other dishes as well. Store the chili flakes in a glass jar and they will last for over a year if you keep them in the refrigerator.
How to Make Tteokbokki
Step 1. Preparation
If your rice cakes are refrigerated, soak them in water for 10 minutes. Fresh ones from Asian stores are ready to use.
Cook’s Note: Some Korean or Asian stores carry freshly made rice cakes. Since they are very soft and ready to use, you don’t need to soak them in water prior to cooking.
Step 2. Anchovy Stock
Simmer dried anchovies and dried sea kelp in water for 5 minutes. Strain and keep the stock.
Step 3. Fish Cakes and Veggies
Prepare fish cakes, leeks, or green onions, which enhance the dish. Additions like cabbage or boiled eggs make the dish heartier.
Step 4. Sauce Mixing
In a skillet, combine the anchovy stock, chili paste, chili flakes, and corn syrup. Introduce the soaked rice cakes.
Step 5. Adding Fish Cakes
Stir in the fish cake and leeks, and let the mixture boil on medium-high heat.
Step 6. Simmer
Once boiling, reduce to low heat and simmer until the rice cakes are tender, and the sauce thickens—approximately 5-7 minutes. Serve immediately.
Pairing tteokbokki with gimmari (Korean fried seaweed rolls) is a match made in heaven. Discover why they’re a staple duo in Korean street food!
Tteokbokki is best enjoyed fresh. If reheating is necessary, stove-top reheating with extra anchovy stock is recommended over microwaving. Simmer until the rice cakes regain their tenderness, and the sauce thickens. Serve immediately.
Your Korean Rice Cakes Experience?
Have you tried making Tteokbokki at home? What variations did you experiment with? Share your stories in the comments below!
More Popular Korean Foods
Looking for more famous Korean recipes? Don’t miss out these dishes below. All are easy to prepare in your home kitchen:
- Authentic Bibimbap in Under 1 Hour
- Classic Beef Bulgogi Recipe (Korean BBQ Beef)
- Korean Fried Chicken (Chimaek)
- Kimbap (Korean Seaweed Rice Roll)
- Korean Corn Dog Recipe
- Hotteok Recipe (Korean Sweet Pancake)
This recipe was originally posted in April 2010. I’ve updated the recipe with a few changes, new photos, and more information.
Classic Tteokbokki: 20-Minute Korean Spicy Rice Cakes
- Soak rice cakes in a bowl of water for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile make the anchovy stock. Combine dried anchovies, sea kelp, and water in a pot. Bring to a gentle boil and simmer for 4-5 minutes. Discard the anchovy and sea kelp and reserve 2-1/2 cups of stock. Save the rest of stock for a later use.
- In a large skillet, combine anchovy stock, chili paste, chili powder (if using), syrup, and soy sauce; mix well.
- Drain the rice cakes from the soaking water and add to the stock mixture. Add the fish cake and leek slices. Bring them to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the rice cakes are tender and the sauce has thickened; about 5-7 minutes. Serve immediately