Recipe: Spicy Ddeokbokki 떡볶이 (Spicy Stir-Fried Rice Cakes)

The ubiquitous ddeokbokki- one of Korea's most representative street food dishes (if not THE representative Korean street food) and a favorite comfort food for nearly all Koreans.

The secret of ddeokbokki to most ddeokbokki vendors (street cart or otherwise) is all in the MSG. They've done investigative reports of even common chain places who advertise they don't use any MSG whatsoever only to be secretly recorded pouring it in by the container.

The secret of good homemade ddeokbokki, however, is all in the stock. You can add a bunch of fancy ingredients to your ddeokbokki from veggies to cheese slices but if you ain't the got the stock from the get-go, then it's a no-go.

It's very simple to make and making it yourself also gives you the luxury of adjusting to personal taste and getting your comfort food fix while knowing you ain't putting a bunch o' scientifically produced "stuff" into your food.

Please note- ddeokbokki is best eaten right after preparing. Leftover ddeokbokki is not very good. The recipe below is for 3-4 people so adjust the serving size accordingly!




Ddeokbokki (떡볶이)
Makes 4 servings

You'll need:
- 1 package of dduk bokki rice cakes (Note: They usually sell these at a Korean mart. Otherwise, get a about a pound of the cylinder-shaped rice cakes and cut them into approximately 2 inch pieces) 
- 3-4 sheets of fish cakes 
- 1 large piece of dried kelp (or about 6 small sized ones)
- 8 dried anchovies
- 1/2 an onion
- 1/2 tbsp of minced garlic
- 3 tbsp of red pepper paste (With more on hand for taste adjustment)
- 1 tbsp of red pepper powder
- 2 tbsp of syrup or sugar (With more on hand for taste adjustment)
- 1 tbsp of soy sauce
- 1 green onion stalk
- 4 cups of water
- 1 tbsp of sesame seeds for garnish

Optional additions: 
- 1 cup of diced cabbage
- 1/2 carrot sliced thinly
- 1 package of ramen noodles
- 3-4 hard boiled eggs 
- 2 slices of American cheese

1. Begin by making the all-important broth. Slice your fish cakes into two inch pieces and thinly slice your onion. Add them to a pot with the water, dried anchovies and kelp and bring it to a boil on medium high.  Note: Removing the head and gut from the anchovies is a recommended but not entirely required step. 

Making good broth is absolutely important in ddukbokki making!

2. After about 15-20 minutes discard the kelp and dried anchovies. You should now have a slightly opaque, light golden colored broth.

A celestial choir of heavenly angels are singing in the background

3. Add the red pepper paste, powder, syrup/sugar, garlic, and soy sauce. Mix thoroughly. Don't worry if the sauce looks very thin at this point as it will thicken over the next few minutes.

Get your spicy on

4. Add the rice cakes and keep stirring. This is also the step to add the cabbage and carrots if you choose to add them. Taste the sauce and make adjustments based on your personal preference. You can add more red pepper paste if it seems a bit bland, add red pepper powder if it seems less spicy, etc. Add a bit more water if it looks a bit dry as well.

Stir like a witch over her pot of brew. Cackling while doing so is optional. 

5. Over the next ten or so minutes keep occasionally stirring to ensure everything is coated and the rice cakes are cooked evenly. The sauce should begin to thicken and coagulate from the rice cakes.

Cut and sample a rice cake to make sure it's cooked through. If you choose to add ramen noodles, snap the noodles in half and add them about a minute or two before serving, or until they're more or less al dente. A minute before serving, dice and add the green onion. Turn off the heat then and get ready to serve.

Thickening up!

6. Right  when serving, add your cheese or hard boiled eggs if you choose to add them. Sprinkle a bit of toasted sesame seeds on top.


I may have gone a little green onion happy but again,
add and subtract ingredients to your preference!

Enjoy. And again, don't leave leftovers. Though that shouldn't be too much of a problem!