Lunar New Year is also celebrated in South Korea. New Year’s Day is known as Seollal and Tteokguk is the traditional meal. Tteokguk is made by adding oval rice cakes to a (usually beef) seasoned clear broth and topping it with various garnishes. This soup was a huge hit with Evan. He especially loved the Tteok and egg yolk strips. If you have any Mandu (Korean dumplings), you can add them to the soup to make Tteok-Manduguk. Definitely don’t limit this soup to New Year’s. It is also a wonderful comfort food when the temperatures drop outside.
This is a soup that needs to be served right after preparing. Much longer and the rice cakes will soften too much. If you only want to make enough for 2-3 people, the ingredients can easily be halved.
Tteok (duk, ddeok, dduk) are Korean rice cakes made from glutinous rice flour. I was able to find Tteok in the refrigerated section of the Asian food market (one that specializes in Korean food). If you don’t have them available nearby, you can also make your own. I haven’t tried, but Maangchi has a tutorial on how to make Garaetteok (Cylinder rice cakes- then you can slice them into ovals).
Guk-Ganjang (Joseon-Ganjang/국간장) is a Korean soup soy sauce generally made as a byproduct of doenjang (fermented soybean paste). It is made from soybeans, water, and salt. It is lighter and has more salt compared to regular soy sauce. This light color won’t change the color of the broth and it also has a richer umami taste. It can be found in the condiment section of Asian food markets featuring Korean products. Maangchi also features a way to make your own. After I open a new bottle, I keep it in the refrigerator up to 2 years. Substitutions aren’t recommended, but some that I have come across include using less regular soy sauce and adding more salt to taste or using fish sauce (start with a smaller amount and work your way up based on taste.
Tteokguk (Korean Rice Cake Soup)
Adapted from Maangchi
2 pounds tteok (rice cakes)
14 cups water
6-8 garlic cloves, minced
2 dae-pa or 6 green onions, thinly sliced diagonally, white and dark green separated
4 teaspoons vegetable oil
4 eggs, separated
2 tablespoons gook-ganjang, Korean soup soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 sheets gim or nori
2 red chilies (optional), deseeded and chopped
Salt to taste
Place the rice cakes in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Allow to soak for 30 minutes and drain.
In a large pot, place the 14 cups water over high heat. Once boiling, continue to boil for 15 minutes. Stir in the beef and garlic. Cover and reduce heat to medium. Continue to cook 20-25 minutes. Season with salt.
While the beef is cooking, place a large skillet over medium heat. Add the kim, one at a time, and cook on both sides until crispy and bright. Transfer the sheets to a plastic bag and crush into crumbs.
Separate the egg yolks and whites into two separate bowls. Season each with a pinch of salt.
Very lightly grease the large skillet with oil and place over medium heat. Beat the egg yolks until smooth. Once the skillet is thoroughly heated, remove from heat. Immediately add the egg yolks and tilt to create a thin, even layer. Once set on the bottom, about a minute, flip to cook the other side. Thinly slice into strips and place on a small plate or bowl.
Add the drained rice cake, fish sauce, salt, and white/light green parts of the green onion to the soup. Cover and continue to simmer until the rice cakes are just cooked, 7-8 minutes. While continuously stirring, pour the egg whites into the soup. Once cooked, stir in sesame oil, black pepper, and darker green parts (reserving a few pieces for garnish) of green onion.
Divide the soup into serving bowls. Top with reserved green onion, egg strips, crumbled kim, and red pepper. Serve immediately.