Tteokbokki for beginners

There isn’t really anything in Western cuisine that can be compared to tteokbokki. If you have ever tried mochi, it’s sort of similar, but chewier and usually savoury. The texture can be something of a surprise to an unaccustomed palate, but if you like it, you’ll find them incredibly moreish.

‘Tteok’ just means a rice cake, nothing like the crispy ones we are used to, but one made from glutinous rice flour, which is mixed to a paste and then steamed. Tteokbokki literally means “fried rice cakes”, but they don’t have to be fried. If you have ever watched a Korean Drama, the characters usually visit a street stand at some point, to buy a tray of tteokbokki in a red, spicy sauce.

You won’t find them in a regular supermarket unless there is a large Korean population in your town. Instead search for an Asian supermarket, there will likely be one in your nearest city centre. Coventry, the city nearest me, has at least four in the centre and one out of town.

Fresh is best, if you can only get frozen, let them thaw out first. If you try to cook from frozen they will split. Don’t try to fry them in a pan that isn’t non-stick, because they stick, BIG TIME. Judy Joo’s suggestion to use a hot grill instead saves a lot of bother, and ruined frying pans. Oh, and you can get pots of microwaveable instant tteokbokki as well, I love it!

Easy Crispy Tteokbokki serves 2

  • 225g cylindrical rice cakes (Tteok or dduk)
  • 1tsp vegetable or olive oil
  • 1tsp sesame oil
  • 1/4 tsp chilli flakes, preferably Korean gochugaru
  • Pinch of salt
  • toasted sesame seeds for sprinkling

Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Add the rice cakes.

When they float to the top they are cooked, remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and put in a bowl.

Add the oils, chilli, and salt and stir to coat evenly. You might need a bit more sesame oil if they look a bit dry.

Spread evenly on a baking tray. Cook under a hot grill for about five minutes, turning once during cooking, until the outside is beginning to blister.

Divide between serving dishes and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Eat as they are, but they’re even better with a sweet chilli dipping sauce.

Korean Food? Yes please!

It’s no secret that I’m slightly obsessed with Korean food, but recipe books aimed at the European Market are few and far between. Yes I could use American ones, but I really don’t get on with cup measurements or directions such as “a scant stick of butter”; surely it’s easier to take away the uncertainty by weighing it? Also why not give the weight as well, like British recipe books do metric and imperial?

I was happy to find this book by Korean American, Judy Joo, who now works as a top chef in London. A lot of the recipes are fusion food, or have “cheffy” touches, so perhaps aren’t quite that simple, but there are still plenty of authentic and traditional dishes to try out.

Korean Food Made Simple – Judy Joo. Jaqui Small LLP, 2016

“Easy and delicious Korean recipes to prepare at home”

So why did you buy it?

Are you kidding? Korean food is awesome, that’s why.

Judge a book by it’s cover…

Actually, I’m not keen on the cover, it’s a bit brash and swirly. I’d prefer something more subtle or more obviously based on Korean art.

Do you use it?

It’s a fairly recent acquisition, so this was a good chance to thoroughly test the book.

What did you make?

Quite a lot! I also made the effort to source some of the more exotic ingredients such as dried anchovies and salted shrimp.

Starting with kimchi, which is the backbone of Korean cuisine, we also tried crispy tteokbokki, Royal tteokbokki, Rappoki (we like tteokbokki)…

Rappoki, a combination of tteokbokki and ramen.
Crispy tteokbokki, a snack to die for!
Royal Tteokbokki.

… Galbi jjim (beef short ribs), sweet and sour beef, and for desert, doenjang salted caramel ice cream. Yep, we love Korean food alright.

Koreans love Chinese food too.
This ice-cream is intense!

Is it still in print?

I’m not sure. New copies are still for sale from some sellers, but it’s mostly used copies at the moment.

Is it worth buying?

I would definitely recommend this book to experienced cooks who want to try something different, or who already have a basic knowledge of Korean food. If you are a beginner then you might find some of the recipes a bit daunting, some are very labour intensive and complex, but then again some are very simple. For me, it’s a keeper.

Real Brownies!

So like I said, in recent months I’ve seen all manner of “healthy” brownies parading virtuously around Internet Land. Gluten free, sugar free, grain free, made with beetroot, beans, courgettes, mayonnaise, mashed avocado, mashed banana, and my personal least favourite – cauliflower (that person was quickly unfollowed on pinterest). Would you eat them? Have you tried them? Let me know in the comments section.

BROWNIES AREN’T MEANT TO BE HEALTHY!

Now I’ve got that off my chest, it’s time to revisit this recipe for wonderfully naughty peanut butter brownies, that were cake of the month way back in 2015. They were based on a ‘Peanut Butter Brownie Bomb’ that I was fortunate enough to try at the Chocolate Festival in Oxford one year.

If you already have a favourite brownie recipe, use that. Otherwise you can’t go wrong with this recipe based on the one found in The Hummingbird Bakery book.

Basic Brownies

With this recipe as a starting point you can make any flavour that takes your fancy.

  • 200g dark chocolate
  • 175g butter
  • 325g golden caster sugar
  • 130g plain flour
  • 3 eggs (any size)

Preheat the oven to 170°c/gas mark 3. Grease and line a rectangular traybake tin.

Break the chocolate into chunks and put in a saucepan/heatproof bowl with the butter. If you use a medium to large saucepan/bowl you can do all the mixing in it and save on washing up. Place over a pan of simmering water and stir gently till melted.

Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar. Sift in the flour and mix well. Beat in the eggs.

Pour into the prepared tin [Add extra ingredients at this point; for peanut butter brownies take half a jar of crunchy peanut butter and sweeten to taste with icing sugar. Dot the brownie mixture with the peanut butter] bake for around 30 mins. It should be glazed and flaky looking on top but still a little soft in the middle but a little over cooking won’t hurt it. Leave to cool in the tin, on top of a wire rack.

Makes 12 to 18 squares

PB brownies are particularly good if topped with milk chocolate. Melt 200g of a good quality milk chocolate and spread over the cooled brownie slab. leave to set then cut into squares or cut into small squares and completely coat each square in chocolate (you can thank me later).