When I first moved to Roanoke, I wasn't aware of the big Asian population. It took me a year to find the many Asian markets that are in town. Now I don't have to wait six months until I go back home to New Jersey to get my hands on Korean food products! Of course, the stores don't have everything, but it's surprising what they do have. Most of the staples are there: red pepper flakes, red pepper paste, instant ramen, even fermented shrimp (for kimchi and such), and snacks. Some surprising products are rice cakes (in oval shapes and in tube shapes), enoki mushrooms (which are really hard to find in non-Asian markets), black bean paste, and various fish cakes. I was so excited when I saw these products, I wanted to buy everything even though I knew I wouldn't be eating them right away. I made myself get just a few things to make the recipe I am sharing with you today.
I've made the spicy version of this before. My mom has actually made this dish only a few times when we were growing up. I prefer the spicy version just because spicy is the best, but this is just as good when you're not in the mood to have your nose constantly running and your tongue tingling during the meal. This still technically isn't the right shape of rice cakes for this dish, but I had already bought these oval ones before I went to another Asian market and saw that they had the tube-shaped rice cakes. I was especially excited when I saw the fish cakes though. It adds to the flavor of the dish so add those if you can find them at your local Asian market! They are always sold as sheets. Mine was rolled up, but they also sell them flat too.
Ever since I found the Asian markets, I have been returning every few weeks or so. I can't make every Korean dish but a lot of the basic ones I can, especially with access to more ingredients. And for the ones I can't make, there's a local Korean restaurant called Wonju. It's not the best I've had (because everyone thinks that his or her own mom's cooking is the best), but it certainly does beat some of the restaurants in my hometown. It's good enough to satisfy any cravings I might have for dishes that are too complicated for me to cook up. If you're ever in Roanoke and wanting to try some new foods, try Wonju!
Soy Sauce Ddukbokki (간장 떡볶이)
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 cups water
1/2 tbsp sugar
1 clove garlic
1/4 onion, sliced
2 cups rice cake
2 sheets fish cakes (오댕), optional
1 green onion, chopped
Add the soy sauce, water, sugar, garlic, and onion to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium, and let it simmer for 3 to 5 minutes.
Add the rice cakes and fish cakes (if using) and let it cook for 5 minutes or until the rice cakes are soft and the sauce has thickened. Add the green onion and cook for 1 more minute.