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|Tteok, gochujang, fish cakes|
Tteokbokki (also known as topokki) is a popular Korean snack food made from soft rice cake, fish cake and sweet red chili sauce. It is commonly purchased from street vendors or pojangmacha. Originally it was called tteok jjim (떡찜) and was a savory braised dish of sliced rice cake, meat, eggs, and seasoning.
Tteok jjim, an early variant of modern tteokbokki, was once a part of Korean royal court cuisine. This type of topokki was made by boiling Garaetteok, meat, vegetables, eggs, and seasonings in water, and then serving it topped with ginkgo nuts and walnuts. In its original form, tteokbokki, which was then known as gungjung tteokbokki, was a dish served in the royal court and regarded as a representative example of haute cuisine. The original tteokbokki was a stir-fried dish consisting of garaetteok (가래떡, cylinder-shaped tteok) combined with a variety of ingredients, such as beef, mung bean sprouts, green onions, shiitake mushrooms, carrots, and onions, and seasoned with soy sauce.
Following the Korean War a new type of tteokbokki became very popular. While the older version was a savory dish, this latter type was much spicier, and quickly became more popular than the older traditional dish. In addition to traditional ingredients, this tteokbokki used gochujang, a fermented, spicy paste made from chilli peppers, along with fish cakes. Other ingredients added to tteokbokki include boiled eggs, pan-fried mandu (Korean dumplings), sausages, ramyeon (which then becomes rabokki/labokki 라볶이), a variety of fried vegetables, and cheese. These days, many kinds of tteokbokki are popular such as seafood tteokbokki(해물 떡볶이) or rice tteokbokki(쌀떡볶이). Flour tteokbokki was popular in early days, but rice tteokbokki is more popular these days.
Sindang-dong in Seoul, where tteokbokki was first sold, is still very famous for the dish and treated as the mekkah or the center of tteokbokki. Since tteokbokki has become one of the most popular dishes, one will easily find a place to enjoy eating tteokbokki in Korea.
Tteokbokki is a traditional Korean street food which can be usually purchased from street vendors also called “pojangmacha” in Korean. The history of tteokbokki brings us back to the late Joseon dynasty. There are many hypotheses and controversy about its real origin. According to bibliographic data, the first tteokbokki in Korean history is said to appear in a cook book called “시의정서 (Siui jeongseo)” written in the late Joseon dynasty. However, based on the fact that tteok (the main ingredient, also known as rice cake) was produced even before in the Three Kingdoms period, it's possible to assume that the history is longer than what's usually considered. Tteokbokki can also be found in medical records: a book called “싱뇨찬요 (Shingnyo chanyo)” written by Jeon Sunui, a medical officer in the Joseon dynasty (1460). The purpose of the book was to cure people through food and tteokbokki was part of it.
Tteokbokki was also a part of Korean royal court cuisine in the Joseon dynasty. While the modern version of tteokbokki is red and spicy, the original version was brown and plain. It was called "궁중 떡볶이 (gungjung tteokbokki)", Palace Tteokbokki. Just like the name implies, gunjeon tteokbokki was a main example of Korean haute cuisine. It was mainly composed with a combination of tteok, meat, vegetables and different kinds of seasoning. After the introduction of gochujang (Korean spicy paste made of chilli peppers) due to the Japanese influence in Joseon dynasty, tteokbokki became red and spicy. It's believed that the main transition from plain to spicy tteokbokki occurred during the 1950s after the independence of Korea. In modern days, most of the tteokbokki sold in street vendors is red and spicy.
Tteokbokki, nowadays, is mostly regarded as a street food that can be picked up at street vendors (pojangmacha) and small independent snack bars. Recently, however, there have been efforts to turn tteokbokki from street food culture to a food franchise. This is mainly because of the continuous demand for tteokbokki among Korean people. Tteokbokki is now regarded by some as a big potential business. As a result, many brands and chain restaurants of tteokbokki have appeared since 2009. Additionally, there are also efforts to globalize tteokbokki in the international food market. Korean government has established a so-called tteokbokki laboratory in 2009 to try to globalize the dish and to provide technical support for its enhancement. Annually, about a billion Korean won is spent in this governmental project to try to make tteokbokki into an international product. In order to achieve a place for tteokbokki into the global market, there is investigation on market research, development of sauces, types of rice cakes and cooking methods to fit into various countries. The spelling of “topokki” was officially given by this institute in order to appear friendlier for the international market. Most tteokbokki was made of flour in modern days but after this governmental project, there's been encouragement to use rice instead. This is mainly because rice is regarded as healthier than flour and to help boost consumption in the domestic rice market.  
Ingredients of tteokbokki
Typical ingredients of tteokbokki are boiled rice cakes ("tteok"), Surimi ("eomuk"), spring onion, soy-and-chili paste ("gochujang"), onions, diced garlic, salt, sugar and different kinds of seasoning based on the taste. Other ingredients include boiled eggs, pan-fried mandu (Korean dumplings), sausages, ramyeon (Korean version of ramen), and a variety of fried seafood or vegetables (which is called “twigim” in Korean).
Different kinds of tteokbokki
Due to the constant popularity of tteokbokki, many kinds of tteokbokki have been invented. Just like other types of popular food, tteokbokki went through various fusions. For example, tteokbokki with pork cutlet is a combination of traditional tteokbokki with pork cutlet sauce and meat. There is also another type called "Shanghai Topokki" which replaced traditional red pepper sauce with the famous Chinese oyster sauce. One of the famous fusions of tteokbokki among Koreans is rabokki, a combination of tteokbokki and ramyeon (the Korean version of ramen). For busy people, tteokbokki are also sold in skewers called “Tteok kkochi”. “Tteok kkochi" is mostly fried rather than boiled and the sauce is slightly different as well. There are many more different fusions of tteokbokki, such as curry tteokbokki, seafood tteokbokki, tteokbokki pasta, cheese tteokbokki, chicken tteokbokki, etc. 
Gungjung-topokki Rice Cake Pasta and Vegetables, Royal Style Gungjung-topokki is a dish made of white rice cakes, beef and various dried and raw vegetables stir-fried with soy sauce for seasoning. Tteokbokki was not spicy and only made with soy sauce until the 18th century. But nowadays, it is cooked with a spicy red bean paste, which had been seen in recipes since the 1950s. Main ingredients are white steamed rice cake, beef (top round),brown oak mushrooms.
Cream sauce tteokbokki(or Carbonara tteokbokki) is a combination of the Korean style carbonara sauce and rice cakes. It did away with stereotypes that tteokbokki is red and spicy food. And it is also making a tteokbokki a kind of haute cuisine.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Tteokbokki.|
- "Festival to Promote Tteokbokki Held in Seoul". Chosun Ilbo. 30 March 2009. Retrieved 28 July 2012.
- Lee, Jiyeon (29 May 2012). "Don't say we didn't warn you: Korea's 5 spiciest dishes". CNN Go. Retrieved 2 June 2012.
- Goldberg, Lina "Asia's 10 greatest street food cities" CNN Go. 23 March 2012. Retrieved 2012-04-11
- Click Korea: Access to Korean Arts & Culture
- 한국전통음식 연구소
- 떡볶이 연구소
- "Korean Food Foundation". Retrieved 2014-03-15.
- "떡의 재발견… 트렌디 더하니 눈과 입이 행복하네~". kukinews. 2014-01-10.