When I was growing up, my parents worked late hours and got home around 9 every night so it was just me and my sister for the most part. I couldn't wait until my parents got home to eat dinner, so sometimes my mom left us real meals before she left for work. Other times, she was in a rush to head out the door, so my sister would cook for the two of us. We always had a package of rice cakes in either the fridge or the freezer, so Ddukbokki (떡복이) was a frequent meal.
At that point in my life, I wasn't too interested in learning how to cook. I was still fascinated by everything my mom did, so I would bother her in the kitchen, asking her what, why, and how. It seemed too complicated for me, though, but maybe it was because she was trying to do many things at once. But when I asked my mom for the recipe a couple months ago, I wondered why I thought this was so difficult. It's probably not as complicated as the chefs in Korea make them, but it's still really good.
I've made Korean food for my friends twice now and this was on the menu both times. I purposefully reduced the amount of red pepper paste (or gochujang) so that it wasn't too spicy. I had considered making a non-spicy version, but there was already too much soy sauce in the other dishes I was serving. I delayed writing this recipe because I wanted to share the spicy and the non-spicy in one post, but I ran out of rice cakes and I prefer spicy anyway. I promise, though, that I will eventually post it.
You can pretty much add whatever you want into this dish, but try to keep it as simple as you can because, really, the main flavors of this dish are the rice cakes and the spicy sauce. One thing I always like to add is fish cakes, also known as odeng (오댕). I didn't add it this time because nobody else really eats fish around here, but it's definitely a must for those who do. Rice cakes come in different shapes. I used the shapes that are used for Ddukgook (떡국) because a company sells them frozen and I was able to bring that down here from home. Go for fresh ones if you can get your hands on them. Slice into 2- or 3-inch segments. For this recipe, you should buy ones that are shaped like the ones below, but smaller in diameter.
- 2 tbsp red pepper paste or gochujang (고추장)
- 1/2 tbsp sugar
- 2 cups water
- 3 anchovies (optional)
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 cups rice cake (떡)
- 2 scallions, chopped in 1-inch pieces
1. In a saucepan, add gochujang, sugar, water, anchovies (optional), soy sauce and garlic. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.
2. Add rice cakes and cook until they are soft and chewy. Add scallions and cook for 2 more minutes. Serve immediately. When this dish gets cold, the sauce gets very thick and the rice cakes stick together so it gets difficult to eat.