Mama Meals: How to Make Tteokbokki
Our video (and recipe) shows you how to prepare this popular Korean street food
In the newest installment of our video cooking series Mama Meals, where students prepare a dish from home, with some long-distance assistance from family members via Zoom, Sophie Lee (Questrom’22) prepares tteokbokki, a popular savory Korean street food dish made with ramen, rice cakes, cabbage—and more. Lee was first introduced to tteokbokki when she moved to Seoul, South Korea, in elementary school. She recalls it as “the first hangout food” of her youth—something she and friends would indulge in when they were together—despite the fact that she doesn’t like most spicy foods (as her mother reminds her).
At the heart of any tteokbokki recipe is a spicy, stir-fried combination of garaetteok (Korean rice cakes) and gochujang, a spicy Korean ground chili paste. Long, cylinder-shaped, and satisfyingly chewy, garaetteok is the perfect vehicle for a variety of sauces and accoutrements such as cabbage, mandu (Korean dumplings), odeng (Korean fish cakes), scallions, and boiled eggs—a must-have for Lee. There are many variations of tteokbokki: some call for soy sauce, black bean sauce, curry, or even cream as the base of the sauce.
Lee’s family recipe might fall closer toward a rabokki, or a tteokbokki prepared with the addition of instant noodles. The recipe also relies on a blast of umami, courtesy of the flavor packet that comes with Korean instant noodles, a not-so-secret ingredient used in some Korean home-cooked dishes. Sophie prepared the dish in her Student Village apartment, but got some long-distance assistance from her mother, Jihyun You, and her father, Woojoon Lee, offering some tips and encouragement from their home in Seoul, 6,795 miles away. Despite the distance, Sophie’s mother still found herself hungry and yearning for a taste (or more) after watching (and doing what mothers do—reminding) her daughter. It’s that delicious.
Remember to put on an apron before making the dish. As Sophie’s mom points out, it’s easy to splatter on your clothes while preparing tteobokki.
Cooking time: 50 mins
- 4 cups water
- 3 Tbsp gochujang
- 3 Tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 Tbsp soy sauce
- 1 Tsp gochugaru
- Vegetable packet from Korean instant noodles
- Flavor packet from Korean instant noodles
Noodles and toppings
- 2 cups cabbage, chopped into small pieces
- 4 cups garaetteok (Korean rice cakes)
- 1½ to 2 packages instant noodles
- 8 to 10 mandu (frozen Korean dumplings), thawed
- 4 sheets odeng (Korean fish cakes), cut into 1½” square pieces
- 2 hard-boiled eggs
- 1 slice of mozzarella or cheddar cheese, cut into slices (optional)
Prepare hard-boiled eggs by bringing a small pot of water to a boil. Gently add the eggs into the pot. Boil for 8 minutes. Remove the eggs and allow to cool. Peel and halve the eggs lengthwise once cooled.
In a large bowl, mix the gochujang, granulated sugar, soy sauce, and gochugaru together with 4 cups of water. Pour the water mixture into a large pot and bring to a simmer. Add the contents of the vegetable packet, then add the cabbage. After two minutes, add garaetteok. Cover with lid.
Once the water returns to a boil, add the instant noodles and mandu. After two minutes, add the cut pieces of odeng. Then, mix in the contents of the flavor packet and stir. Add sugar to taste and stir some more. Add the boiled eggs on top, cover with lid, and allow the dish to steam for another two minutes.
Serve the tteokbokki in a bowl or plate, and be sure to include at least one mandu and half an egg with each serving. Top the meal with slices of mozzarella or cheddar cheese right away, so that the cheese melts on top of the dish.