One of my favorite late night activities I like to do with my friends is eat. Whether because of late-night cravings or late-night studying, something about eating late at night with close friends forges a memory I like looking back on. One of my late-night favorites is a Korean snack called tteok kkochi (떡꾜치).
Tteok kkochi — which translates to “rice cake skewer” — is prepared on the grill, topped with oil and glazed with a sweet and spicy sauce. This dish originates from South Korea and is made with the same main ingredient as another popular Korean dish, Tteokbokki (떡볶이). In South Korea, you will see dozens of street vendors selling tteok kkochi, especially during the winter when the only thing everyone wants is a warm, affordable snack.
If you do not own or want to buy skewers, it is still easy to make this recipe without them. Some of the ingredients you can easily find in your grocery store, such as the sugar, corn syrup and ketchup, but some of the other ingredients, such as the gochujang (고추장) and rice cakes, can’t typically be found there. I brought mine from home. However, I have read reviews that said that C’ville Oriental sells Korean products, though I haven’t been there in-person to see its offerings. If those harder-to-find ingredients are not there, there is also the option to buy them from Amazon.
Although there are countless recipes online that use a variety of ingredients, these steps do not have to be followed exactly to produce this delicious snack. Every time my mom cooked this dish for me, she never followed an exact recipe, as she trusted her instincts and her taste buds when eyeing out the ingredients. Since I am not as skilled as my mom, I always make sure to measure out the ingredients. However, I do not follow an exact recipe as I still find myself making slight changes to recipes found online depending on the ingredients I have access to.
With the right combinations, measurements and a little effort, your rice cakes should be crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. Likewise, the sauce should be spicy and followed by a sweet aftertaste. The chewiness of the rice cakes and the sweet and spicy sauce should work together to form a harmonious experience.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Serving Size: 20 skewers
4 skewers (optional)
About 20 Korean long cylinder rice cakes (가래떡)
½ tablespoon of gochujang — a Korean red pepper paste
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons corn syrup
2 tablespoons cooking oil of your choice — I prefer vegetable oil
½ tablespoon minced garlic (optional)
Strips of bacon for topping (optional)
Shredded mozzarella cheese for topping (optional)
- Boil the rice cakes for about a minute to soften them then drain out all the water. Place them aside in a separate bowl. If skewers are available, stick five rice cakes on each skewer until you run out of rice cakes.
- Measure out all the remaining ingredients in a separate bowl except for the cooking oil, and mix well. Set aside until needed.
- Heat a pan on high, pour the cooking oil and wait until the oil gets hot or until visible bubbles form. One way I like to test if the oil is ready is by taking the tip of one rice cake and placing it in the oil — if the rice cake is ready to go in, the tip of the rice cake should fry slightly while the oil bubbles around it.
- Once the oil is hot enough, pour the rice cakes into the pan and turn the heat to medium high. Toss the rice cakes continuously for about five minutes, or until desired crispiness. It is important to stir consistently so that the rice cakes do not burn. If cooking with skewers, simply flip the skewers back and forth.
- Once the rice cakes are slightly golden-brown, pour in the prepared sauce and continue to toss the rice cakes until they are completely covered. If cooking with skewers, use a fork, brush or any utensil available to spread the sauce out evenly on the rice cakes.
- Continue to toss or flip the rice cakes and the sauce together until the sauce itself gets crispy.
For the meat-lovers out there, tteok kkochi is also delicious with bacon. To integrate the bacon, cut it into small strips, cook it beforehand then mix it in together with the rice cakes and the sauce. For cheese-lovers, tteok kkochi pairs nicely with shredded mozzarella cheese — after the tteok kkochi is finished, sprinkle the shredded cheese on top while they are still hot.
Although trying new dishes from different cultures can be intimidating at first, this recipe will make your first experience with Korean cuisine a lot easier. The process is simple and it will only take a total of 20 minutes to impress family or friends. Whether you try tteok kkochi for the first time in Korea or in your own home, I hope your first experience will inspire you to try other Korean cuisines.