Growing up Korean-American, I had my fair share of burgers and man n’ cheese, but I was also exposed to a wide world of traditional Korean fare: kimchi jjigae, bibimbap, japchae, and so many many more. But, there was one Korean dish that I loved the most: tteokbokki.
The smell of tteokbokki trailing up the stairs and into my room warranted an immediate trip to the kitchen to see my mom preparing this decadently delicious dish.
For those of you who don’t know, tteokbokki is a traditional Korean dish that’s typically sold as a street food. It’s made of chewy, pillowy rice cakes that are coated in a sweet red chili sauce.
Moving out and living on my own prompted two of my least favorite things: paying bills and the absence of my mom’s cooking. This meant no more pre-prepared Korean dinners.
I’ve always wanted to carry on the tradition of making Korean dishes and passing down the recipes that I loved so much growing up. The issue with this, is that most Korean food is broth based and therefore contains some kind of bone or fish base. My mom, being the angel she is, would make me vegan versions of my favorite Korean foods before I moved out, but for some reason we never made tteokbokki.
Eventually, I’d love to collect a library of vegan Korean recipes that taste as authentic as the original - so we’ll start with my favorite.
The first thing, and the most important in my opinion, is the tteok base. While you can make your own tteok, it’s so much more convenient and less time consuming to pick up a fresh pack from your local asian supermarket.
Typically, they’ll have a fresh tteok selection in the bakery section or refrigerated packs in the cold food section. The difference between the two is marginal when you cook them, but I love the feeling of picking up fresh tteok from the bakery. Typically, I’ll use fresh tteok if I’m making the dish that day and refrigerated tteok if I’m making it within the next few days, If you go fresh, you’ll want to use it that day or freeze it. Then, you can also use it for other dishes or defrost it for a quick snack.
If you’re using frozen tteok, make sure to soak them in warm water for about 10 to 20 minutes before making the dish so that they’re soft and ready to cook.
Next, you’ll start on the spicy sauce. I like my sauce less soupy, which is what you’ll see when you order it at most restaurants. Typically, this is made of anchovy broth and contains fish cakes. It can also contain a pretty large dose of corn syrup. For this recipe, I’ve removed the fish cakes, but you can replace them with mushrooms or even tofu if you like. I’ve also swapped the corn syrup for a small amount of pure organic cane sugar.
To make the stock, start with a vegetable broth and bring it to a boil. Once it’s boiling, you can add your red pepper, pepper paste, soy sauce, and pure cane sugar then let it simmer for minutes.
After all the ingredients are well combined, add the tteok to the gochujang sauce and let it simmer for about 10 minutes until the tteok gets chewy. At this time, you can add tofu or any other vegetables like zucchini and mushrooms.
And that’s it! You can serve the tteokbokki hot and garnish with sesame seeds and green onion to finish. This dish is versatile, super easy to make, and perfect to share around the table. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!
Easy Vegan Tteokbokki
Takes , Serves 4.
- 2 Cup Korean Tteok (Rice Cakes) (340g)
- 2 Cup Vegetable Stock (480 ml)
- 2 TBSP Coconut Sugar
- 2 TBSP Korean Red Pepper Paste
- ¼ tsp Red Pepper Flakes
- 1 TBSP Soy Sauce
- 1 TBSP Sesame Seeds
- 2 Green Onions
- If tteok is refrigerated, soak in a large bowl of warm water for about 10 to 20 minutes to soften.
- Bring vegetable stock to a boil in a large saucepan over medium high heat.
- Add cane sugar, red pepper paste, red pepper flakes, and soy sauce and stir until fully incorporated. Let simmer for about 20 minutes until stock reduces and thickens.
- Reduce the heat to medium and add in rice cakes. Let the mixture simmer for about 8 to 10 minutes until the rice cakes are tender to the touch.
- Remove from heat and add green onions.
- Transfer to serving dish and garnish with sesame seeds.