Monday, June 16, 2014

Korean Spicy Rice Cakes (Ddukbokki)...

Before I became helplessly addicted to these hot chewy rice cylinders, I never cared for them rice cakes. Once I tried it at a Korean food court and it was crazy spicy, although it looked sumptuous with the red sauce. I did not understand the appeal of its street food popularity especially with Korean school kids (it's there lunch box staple)- I mean burn-your-tongue-off hot! But luckily years later I rediscovered them. Again, charmed by its hearty fresh ready-to-eat appearance, I picked up a warm to-go container at a Korean supermarket. Man, I chowed that thing down. Wooed my older boys to try and they instantly fell in love too. They even say ddukbokki with real passion and gusto. I was finally able to taste its real flavour which was a combination of sweet heat and savoury umami, not scorching fire. And the texture perfectly chewy and soft. So craving it again and again after that, I decided to make my own and it's become an easy favourite around here. As it simmers, the sauce turns creamy and the rice cakes soften and becomes addictively chewy. The flavourful umami broth is made from anchovies and kelp. But, it can easily be vegetarian with pure kelp or addition of shiitake mushrooms while foregoing the fish cakes. Goes to show, that by giving things a second chance you may find a once forgotten unwanted gem. And in food, this should always be the golden rule! ♪o<( ´∀`)っ┌iii┐

A ddukbokki vendor amongst many on a street in Korea. The deep red sauce can look frightening.

Korean Spicy Rice Cakes

Makes 4 to 6 Servings

3 cups of water
10 large size dried anchovies, with heads and intestines removed
6 x 8 inch dried kelp
1 Tbsp. canola oil
1 medium onion, sliced
1 medium carrot, halved and sliced
3 green onions, cut into 2-inch long pieces
½ pound fried fish cakes, many shapes and sizes to choose from, cut into bite-size pieces
1 pound of cylinder shaped rice cake, best to buy fresh at a Korean supermarket
3 Tbsp. Korean hot pepper paste
1 tsp. hot pepper flakes
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. each soy sauce and fish sauce
hard boiled eggs (optional)

Vegetarian Option: Use dried shiitake mushrooms and steep along with the dried kelp.

Steep anchovies and kelp in a pot or bowl with the water for an hour or more. If desired, you can boil the contents in a pot for 15 minutes, strain anchovies and kelp and keep the broth.

Separate each rice cake before cooking, or it can form a sticky clump.

Detaching rice sticks is a great activity your kids can help with. 

Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in skillet over medium heat and saute onions for two minutes; add the carrots and cook for another two minutes before adding the green onions to stir-fry for one and then the fish cakes.

Add the broth; bring to a boil and add the rice cakes. Return the mixture to a boil again, then add the pepper paste. Add one tablespoon at a time and taste to find your ideal spice level. Add the rest of the seasoning, tasting and adjusting the flavours as you go. 

Stir gently with a wooden spoon when it starts to boil. Keep stirring until the rice cake turns soft and the sauce thickens and looks shiny, which should take about 10 -15 minutes. If using hard boiled eggs, cut them in half and toss at the end. If the rice cake is not soft enough, add more water and continue stirring until soften. When you use freshly made rice cake, it takes shorter time. If you use frozen rice cake, thaw it out and soak in cold water to soften it before cooking. Eat hot!

Not nearly as red and scary like those in the Korean food stalls!

Here's growing up on ddukbokki over the years!

From the mouths of my babes: "There's no stopping us from eating our favourite yummy delicious mommy-made-for-us DDUKBOKKI!!"

Here is more on my Korean food and Spicy lovin' recipes.

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