What Are The Key Ingredients In Making Traditional Korean Spicy Rice Cakes (tteokbokki)?

Embarking on the journey to make traditional Korean spicy rice cakes, or tteokbokki, opens up a world of vibrant flavors and rich culinary heritage. Your kitchen will be filled with the tantalizing aroma from the combination of chewy rice cakes, called tteok, and the fiercely flavorful gochujang, a staple Korean chili paste. You’ll also add a splash of soy sauce, a touch of sugar, and some minced garlic to balance the spice with a hint of sweetness. Fresh vegetables like cabbage, carrots, and green onions add both crunch and color, while fish cakes offer an extra layer of savory delight. Let’s dive into the essential ingredients that bring this beloved Korean street food to life in your very own home. Have you ever wondered what goes into making those deliciously spicy and chewy Korean rice cakes, known as tteokbokki? Whether you’ve tasted them at a bustling street market in Seoul or at a cozy Korean restaurant in your hometown, tteokbokki has a way of captivating your taste buds and leaving you craving more. But what exactly are the key ingredients that make this dish so irresistible?

What Are The Key Ingredients In Making Traditional Korean Spicy Rice Cakes (tteokbokki)?

Understanding the components of tteokbokki can deepen your appreciation for this iconic dish and maybe even inspire you to try making it at home. The good news? If you’ve got rice cakes and gochujang (Korean chili paste), you’re already on your way! Let’s take a closer look at the must-have ingredients that make traditional tteokbokki a crowd-pleaser.

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The Main Ingredient: Rice Cakes (tteok)

The star of the show is the rice cakes, known as tteok. These are cylindrical, chewy pieces made from rice flour and water. They may seem simple, but they bring a unique texture to the dish that is both satisfying and comforting.

Types of Rice Cakes:

Type Description
Garaetteok Cylindrical, used for soups and tteokbokki
Saealtteok Small, round, and usually used as dessert

When preparing tteokbokki, garaetteok is the go-to choice. These rice cakes are dense enough to soak up the sauce without losing their delightful chewiness.

The Spice Factor: Gochujang (Korean Chili Paste)

No tteokbokki would be complete without gochujang, a fermented chili paste that is both spicy and slightly sweet. Made from chili powder, glutinous rice, fermented soybeans, and salt, gochujang is a staple in Korean cuisine and lays the flavor foundation for your tteokbokki.

Flavor Profile:

  • Spicy: The chili powder gives a robust, spicy kick.
  • Sweet: The glutinous rice adds a subtle sweetness.
  • Umami: Fermented soybeans give an underlying depth of flavor.

Adding Depth: Gochugaru (Korean Chili Flakes)

While gochujang sets the stage, gochugaru brings an extra layer of heat and texture. These Korean chili flakes vary in spice levels, so you can adjust according to your preference. Gochugaru is not just about heat; it also adds visual appeal and a savory depth.

Types of Gochugaru:

Type Spice Level
Fine Mild to moderate
Coarse Moderate to spicy

Building the Broth: Anchovy and Kelp Stock

Traditional tteokbokki boasts a more complex flavor profile due to the broth made from anchovies and kelp. This stock adds a savory umami base that perfectly balances the heat from the chili paste and flakes.

Simple Stock Recipe:

  • 10 dried anchovies (heads and guts removed)
  • A piece of kelp (about 10 cm)
  • 4 cups of water

Simmer these ingredients together for about 15 minutes, then strain. This stock will form the foundation of your tteokbokki sauce.

Sweetness and Balance: Sugar or Corn Syrup

To balance the spicy and savory elements, a touch of sweetness is necessary. You can use either sugar or corn syrup, depending on your preference.

Sweetening Agents:

Sweetener Characteristics
Sugar Classic choice, dissolves easily
Corn Syrup Adds both sweetness and a glossy texture
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Adjust the amount according to your taste, but typically, 1-2 tablespoons is enough to create that perfect harmony.

Enhancing Flavor: Soy Sauce and Garlic

Soy sauce and garlic are two additional ingredients that enhance the dish’s overall flavor. Soy sauce brings a salty, umami-rich element, while garlic adds a pungent depth.


  • Soy Sauce: About 1-2 tablespoons
  • Garlic: Typically 2-3 cloves, minced

Adding Vegetables: Cabbage, Carrots, and Green Onions

Fresh vegetables not only add color and crunch but also soak up the flavors of the spicy sauce, making each bite more enjoyable.

Common Veggies to Include:

Vegetable Role in Dish
Cabbage Adds crunch and sweetness
Carrots Adds color and a subtle sweetness
Green Onions Adds a fresh, slightly sharp note

Slice or chop these vegetables into bite-sized pieces for an optimal texture balance.

Optional Protein: Fish Cakes, Boiled Eggs, and Sausages

To make your tteokbokki more filling, you can add proteins such as fish cakes, boiled eggs, or even sausages.

Protein Options:

Protein Preparation
Fish Cakes Slice into bite-sized pieces
Boiled Eggs Boil and peel, then add whole or halved
Sausages Slice or dice

Fish cakes are the most traditional choice, often used in Korean street food versions of the dish. However, boiled eggs and sausages are also popular additions that make the dish heartier.

The Final Touch: Sesame Oil and Sesame Seeds

A drizzle of sesame oil and a sprinkle of sesame seeds before serving can elevate your tteokbokki to new heights. Sesame oil adds a rich, nutty aroma, while sesame seeds provide a nice crunch.

Final Garnishes:

Garnish Purpose
Sesame Oil Adds a rich, nutty aroma
Sesame Seeds Adds a textural contrast and visual appeal

What Are The Key Ingredients In Making Traditional Korean Spicy Rice Cakes (tteokbokki)?

How to Put All These Ingredients Together

Once you’ve assembled all your ingredients, it’s time to bring them together into a pot of tteokbokki that will leave everyone asking for seconds. Follow these steps for a perfect outcome:

Step 1: Prepare the Broth

Start by preparing the anchovy and kelp stock as mentioned earlier. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil, add the dried anchovies and kelp, and let it simmer for about 15 minutes. Strain and set aside.

Step 2: Cook the Rice Cakes

In a large pan or wok, add your rice cakes and pour in enough of the prepared broth to cover them. Bring to a boil over medium heat. This step will soften the rice cakes and infuse them with some of the broth’s flavors.

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Step 3: Add the Sauce Ingredients

Once your rice cakes start to soften, it’s time to add the flavor-packed sauce ingredients. Mix in:

  • 2 tablespoons of gochujang
  • 1 tablespoon of gochugaru
  • 1-2 tablespoons of sugar or corn syrup
  • 1-2 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 2-3 cloves of minced garlic

Stir well to make sure the rice cakes are evenly coated.

Step 4: Add Vegetables and Proteins

After the sauce has been well mixed and starts to thicken, add your choice of vegetables and proteins:

  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Green onions
  • Fish cakes
  • Boiled eggs
  • Sausages

Let it simmer for another 5-10 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and the sauce has thickened to your liking.

Step 5: Final Touches

Before serving, add a drizzle of sesame oil and sprinkle some sesame seeds on top. This final garnish adds a layer of richness and a slight crunch to each bite.

What Are The Key Ingredients In Making Traditional Korean Spicy Rice Cakes (tteokbokki)?

Tips and Tricks for Perfect Tteokbokki

Tip 1: Adjusting Spice Levels

If you’re new to spicy foods, start with a smaller amount of gochujang and gochugaru, and taste as you go. You can always add more if you want extra heat.

Tip 2: Consistency of the Sauce

The sauce should be thick enough to cling to the rice cakes but not so thick that it turns into a paste. If it’s too thin, simmer a little longer to reduce it. If it’s too thick, add a splash of broth or water.

Tip 3: Using Fresh vs. Frozen Rice Cakes

Fresh rice cakes are ideal, but if you’re using frozen rice cakes, make sure to soak them in warm water for 10-15 minutes before cooking. This will make them more pliable and ready to absorb the delicious sauce.

Tip 4: Adding Cheese

For an extra indulgent twist, consider adding a layer of shredded mozzarella cheese on top of your tteokbokki. Cover the pan for a few minutes to let the cheese melt, and you’ll have a creamy, gooey addition that balances the spicy sauce perfectly.

Tip 5: Storage and Reheating

Tteokbokki is best enjoyed fresh, but if you have leftovers, store them in an airtight container in the fridge. When reheating, add a bit of broth or water to bring back the sauce’s consistency.

What Are The Key Ingredients In Making Traditional Korean Spicy Rice Cakes (tteokbokki)?


So there you have it! The key ingredients that make traditional Korean spicy rice cakes (tteokbokki) are simpler than you might think, but each one plays a crucial role in creating the dish’s complex and irresistible flavor profile. From the chewy rice cakes to the umami-rich broth and the spicy-sweet kick from gochujang, every element comes together to offer a truly unforgettable culinary experience.

Whether you’re a seasoned cook or a newbie in the kitchen, making tteokbokki at home can be a rewarding adventure. With the right ingredients and a bit of practice, you’ll soon be able to whip up a delicious pot of tteokbokki that rivals any you’ve had before. So, why not give it a try? You might just find that making this iconic Korean dish at home is easier and more fun than you ever imagined. Happy cooking!