Enjoy Korean food, but looking for a little less heat? Gungjung Tteokbokki, Korean Royal Stir-Fried Rice Cakes, is the much older precursor to the spicy Tteokbokki street food with fish cakes and gochujang that has gained in popularity following the Korean War.
Gungjung Tteokbokki was developed during the Joseon (Chosŏn) Dynasty in the Royal Court. Marinated thinly-sliced beef is stir-fried with a variety of vegetables and thick rice cakes in a soy sesame sauce. The starch from the rice cakes helps thicken the sauce to create a silky coating. There is also a hint of sweetness from the rice syrup/honey. I have actually made this recipe three times in the past month. First time, I didn’t get photos. Second time, Chad took the leftovers to work that I set aside for photos. Third time, I doubled the recipe (it doubles well). It is quite the comfort food.
I topped the Tteokbokki with Gyerannoreunjajidan (Egg Yolk Strips), toasted pine nuts, and sesame seeds. Green onions would also make a nice accompaniment.
I used dried shiitake mushrooms and soaked them in water until they were soft. If you don’t have dried shiitake mushrooms available, you can substitute with fresh shiitake or button and add 1/2 cup water with the rice cakes in place of the soaking liquid.
Garaetteok are rice cakes shaped into long cylinders made by pounding steamed rice flour. I was able to find them in the refrigerated section of a local Asian food market. They may also be found in the frozen section. If using frozen garaetteok, thaw them in the refrigerator overnight before preparing. You can also make your own (haven’t tried this yet). These thick rice noodles have a chewy texture that contrasts nicely with the thinly sliced beef and vegetables. If you love thicker noodles and dumplings like I do, it is definitely something to try. While Chad did enjoy the flavors of this dish, he prefers much thinner noodles or the thinly sliced rice cakes used in soup.
Gungjung Tteokbokki (Korean Royal Stir-Fried Rice Cakes)
Adapted from Maangchi
1 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon honey or sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
3 ounces beef brisket, very thinly sliced into strips
1 pound Garaetteok (cylinder-shaped rice cakes)
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 garlic clove, minced
5 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in at least 1 cup warm water to soften (reserve the water) for about 20 minutes, discard stems and thinly slice
1/2 cup thinly sliced green bell pepper
1/2 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper
1/2 cup thinly sliced onion
1/3 cup matchstick sliced carrots
4 teaspoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice syrup, honey, or sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts, chopped
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
In a medium bowl, beat together the garlic clove, 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce, 1/2 teaspoon honey, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and sesame oil. Add the sliced beef and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
Place the rice cakes in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Let sit for 5 minutes to soften. Drain and set aside.
Beat the egg yolks in a small bowl with a pinch of salt. Place a small skillet over medium heat. Lightly wipe with oil and reduce heat to the lowest setting. Add the beaten egg yolks, tilting the pan to form a thin layer. Remove the pan from heat. Once the top is nearly set, flip to let the residual heat finish cooking the other side. Remove from the pan and slice into thin strips. Set aside as garnish.
Drizzle the vegetable oil in a wok or large skillet over medium high heat. Once heated, add the garlic and prepared beef with marinade. Cook, stirring, until the beef is halfway cooked.
Stir in the mushrooms, bell peppers, onion, and carrots. Cook, stirring often, for a minute. Mix in the rice cakes, 1/2 cup of the reserved water from soaking the mushrooms, soy sauce, rice syrup, and black pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the rice cakes and vegetables have softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the sesame oil and remove from heat.
Serve hot topped with the egg strips, pine nuts, and sesame seeds.