A recipe for Tteokguk (떡국, Korean Rice Cake Soup)! Thin, chewy rice cakes are simmered in a clear beef broth and served with seasoned beef, sliced egg, roasted seaweed, and green onion.
Tteokguk is a warm and comforting soup especially popular during the Lunar New Year (Seollal, 설날). Preparation varies based on family and region. Today, I am sharing one of my personal favorites.
Thin, oval rice cakes are simmered in a lightly seasoned beef broth just until softened with a chewy texture. The soup is served with a variety of delicious garnishes- seasoned, shredded beef, sliced egg yolk and egg white omelets, shredded or crumbled roasted seaweed, and thinly sliced green onion.
This version does take some time to prepare since the beef needs to simmer for at least an hour until tender, but otherwise comes together relatively easily. The rice cakes can soak and the garnishes prepped while the soup is cooking to help save some time. Other soup bases include anchovy (a quicker option), chicken, or in the past- pheasant.
For a delicious variation, add dumplings to make Duk Mandu Guk (Tteok Mandu Guk, Dduk Mandu Guk).
The Tteokguk needs to be served immediately after preparing. The rice cakes will soak up additional liquid and soften too much the longer they sit in the hot broth. The clear soup can be prepared in advance and refrigerated.
Tteok (ddeok, dduk, duk/떡) are Korean rice cakes made from a specialty short grain rice flour. I was able to find them in the refrigerated section of my local Korean market. If you don’t have them available nearby, you can also make your own.
I haven’t tried personally, but Maangchi has a tutorial on how to make Garaetteok (Cylinder rice cakes- then you can then slice them into ovals for the soup). I usually keep Tteok in the freezer and pull out only the amount I need. They defrost quickly at room temperature.
Soak the rice cakes in cold water for 20 to 30 minutes, then drain before simmering in the soup. Make sure to separate any rice cake pieces that are stuck together.
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. This sauce has more salt and the light color won’t change the color of the broth. It can be found in the condiment section of markets featuring Korean products.
Maangchi also features a way to make your own. Substitutions aren’t recommended, but some that I have come across include using less 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) Recipe
Adapted from Maangchi
Tteokguk (Korean Rice Cake Soup)
- 10 cups (2.4 liters) water
- 8 ounces (227 grams) beef brisket cut into 1 1/2 inch (4 cm) cubes
- 4 garlic cloves peeled and left whole
- 3 green onions white and light green parts, dark green thinly sliced and set aside for garnish
- 1 1/2 tablespoons (22 milliliters) Korean soup soy sauce Guk-Ganjang
- 1 tablespoon (15 milliliters) sesame oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 21 ounces (600 grams, ~4 cups) sliced rice cakes tteok
- 2 sheets Gim roasted seaweed
- 3 large eggs white and yolk separated
- Vegetable oil for greasing the skillet
- Reserved beef shredded
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Reserved dark green onion thinly sliced
- Rinse the beef cubes in cold water and drain.
- In a large pot, add the 10 cups water, beef, garlic cloves, green onion over high heat. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until the meat is tender, 1-1 1/2 hours. Skim off and discard any foam that develops on the surface.
- While the broth is simmering, place the rice cakes in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Allow to soak for 30 minutes and drain.
- Place a skillet over medium heat. Place a sheet of the gim on the hot skillet to lightly toast on each side until crisp. Repeat with the other sheet. Slice into strips or crumble with your hands and set aside.
- Separate the egg yolks and whites into two separate bowls. Very lightly grease the skillet with oil and place over medium low heat.
- Lightly 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 but not yet browned, about a minute, flip to cook the other side. Remove to a cutting board, thinly slice into strips, and set aside.
- Grease the skillet again. Lightly beat the egg whites and pour into the skillet, tilting to form a thin, even layer. Once set, but not browned, flip to cook the other side. Remove to a cutting board, thinly slice into strips, and set aside.
- Once the beef is tender, strain the broth and place back over medium heat. Shred the beef pieces and place in a small bowl. Discard the vegetables. Season the shredded beef with the minced garlic, 1 teaspoon sesame oil, and black pepper. Set aside.
- Season the broth with the soup soy sauce and sesame oil. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Once boiling, add the drained rice cakes and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5-8 minutes.
- Divide the soup among individual bowls. Top with the seasoned beef, crumbled seaweed, egg strips, and reserved green onion. Serve immediately.