We are not so much what we eat, but what we remember we have eaten.
When I was five years old, I walked in my mom’s kitchen one Saturday morning and smelled the most delicious smells coming from her kitchen. She called me to the room with those enticing aromas and placed a plate of ‘tteokbokki’ in front of me. Then she told me to eat quickly or else it would get cold. The way the rice cakes disappeared in my mouth as I ate it delighted me.
The experience left a lasting impression. This dish was so common when I was growing up that everyone in her family used to make it. But my mom’s was the best, by far. Most know tteokbokki as a savory Korean stir-fried rice cakes made with scallions and fishcake.
1 pound tteokbokki tteok
1 sheet of eomuk (fish cake)
4 ounces green cabbage (yangbaechu)
3 cups anchovy broth (or water)
3 tablespoons Korean red chili pepper paste (gochujang)
2 teaspoons Korean red chili pepper flakes
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon corn syrup (or 1 more tablespoon sugar)
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon sesame seeds (optional)
- Make anchovy broth ahead of time. Add 9 medium dried anchovies and 1 piece of dried dashima (about 4-inch square) to the pan along with 4 cups of water. Over medium high heat, boil for 10 minutes. Remove anchovies and dashima from the stock.
- Soak the rice cakes for about 20 minutes if hardened or refrigerated. Cut the fish cake, cabbage, and scallions into about 1-inch pieces.
- Add the anchovy broth to a large pan. Stir in the sauce ingredients, except the sesame oil and optional sesame seeds. Bring it to a boil over medium high heat, stirring to dissolve the red chili pepper paste (gochujang).
- Add the rice cakes. Boil until the rice cakes become very soft and the sauce is thickened, about 9 minutes. Don’t forget to stir frequently since the rice cakes can stick to the bottom of the pan.
- Add the vegetables and fish cakes. Continue to boil, stirring constantly, for an additional 5 minutes. Taste the sauce, and adjust the seasoning if needed. Add the sesame oil and optional sesame seeds right before turning the heat off. Serve immediately.