Tuesday, August 28, 2018

[Food] Tteok-bokki (떡볶이, Stir Fried Ricecake)



(떡볶이, Stir Fried Ricecake)

Quiet raindrops were falling on my window and I didn't have my supper today because I had a very late lunch this afternoon. I thought 'I won't be hungry', but it didn't take long to realize that this was a very wrong decision. I had to eat something right then or else I would have soon chewed the pen in my hand.

I got up from my chair, put on my cozy shirt and hit the door running towards my favorite snack shop on the street where old Mrs. Mah has run since decades ago. Within a short time, I caught sight of sign boards with flickering lights.

Shindahng Dong-Famous Tteok-bokki district in Seoul

Mmm…the warm smell of Tteok-bokki’s spicy anchovy stock! It gently touched my nostrils with the smell of a wet rainy day. I'm not really a big fan of Tteok-bokki, but sometimes I really want to eat it.

Doesn't it look very spicy? Yes, it usually has a mild spicy flavor
but it can taste different when cooked in a shop or by a cook.

"Good evening, Mrs Mah. 1 dish of Tteok-bokki please, with fishcakes and some deep fries!"

"What? Are you a cripple? Or without legs? If you want it, take it yourself, you cheeky man!"

"Oh, Ma'am. What's the problem today? We haven't seen each other for such a long time and you’re being grumpy again."

"Be quiet and sit wherever you want. I will kick your butt if you don't eat it all!"

Common Snack Shop in S.Korea. It is a very popular place for students of all ages
Yes, as you can see, she is one grumpy, cranky old woman. You’d better be polite to her, or else she’s gonna throw you out. However, unlike what she usually says to her customers, what she really does is the very opposite. She is actually a very warm-hearted and kind person who always gives me more than I can eat.
Tteok-bokki with steamed Soondae(internal organs of pig) and deep fries

Soon, she scooped Tteok-bokki with a big dipper and tossed it on to a plastic dish.
Yes! She didn't forget my favorite fishcake and spring onion!

"There you go, little man. You’d better eat more than you do. Do you think girls will like your toothpick-shaped body? Haha!"

"Uhm....you know ma'am, nowadays they do actually like thin guys...."

"Be quiet, son, and eat."

"Ok, ok...I’d better be silent..."

You might think she is very mean to me, but she just wants me to be healthy and look good. This is what this shy old woman really wants to say :)

She turned back to the kitchenette by the entrance of her shop, and started to make more Tteok-bokki into a big and square iron plate. And I want to tell you more about Tteok-bokki :) while I enjoy it.

Well, 'Tteok' in Korean means ‘ricecake‘ and 'Bokki' means ‘stir-fried’. It has become a very common traditional Korean food since 1960 - shortly after the end of the Korean War. Before it became a cheap and common food for Koreans, Tteok-bokki was a very expensive and rare dish that only a royal or rich family could eat. A recipe of soy-sauced Tteok-bokki with chopped beef was very common in a palace and rich houses in Chosun Dynasty (5~600 years ago), and the spicy Tteok-bokki was born after the introduction of the red pepper after the Japanese Invasion of Korea in 1592.

Palace Tteok-bokki (Soy-sauced Tteok-bokki with beef)

Spicy Tteok-bokki cannot be made without these two (Spicy pepper and a paste of it)

I can give you this simple recipe. Pour some water (it is better if you use fish or seaweed stock) into a big iron pan or stainless pot, then boil it. Once it simmers, put chopped plain ricecake with sauce, chopped meat or fishcake, some noodle and veggies (usually chopped onion, garlic, cabbage etc.). Then stir fry or boil with the poured ingredients.

This is called 'Garae Tteok (Long-thin ricecake)', usually used for Tteok-bokki and a ricecake soup

These days, Tteok-bokki has also adapted itself to suit the taste of young people and also adopted some western ingredients like cheese :)

Yum, Tteok-bokki with Mozzarella cheese....always right!
I think Tteok-bokki perfectly complements the taste of Koreans who love spicy and chewy foods, and it has become 'National Food' of Korea.
Tteok-bokki, the Beloved Food of Koreans

I finished all of my Tteok-bokki (because I'm a good boy) and paid my bill with a full tummy. As I passed the door of the snack shop, Mrs. Mah didn't forget to say,

"Come again and eat, you handsome. cheeky man."

"What? Are you calling me 'handsome' now?"

"Do you have a problem with it? I can call you whatever I want because I want to!"

"Ok, you are my boss...as long as you feed me with your great Tteok-bokki, Haha."

Oh, yeah. She deserves to be my boss (or grandma) because she always gives me the greatest Tteok-bokki in the world and more than what I ordered :)

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