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Type Bokkeum
Place of origin Korea
Main ingredients Tteok (rice cakes), eomuk (fish cakes), gochujang (chili paste)
Variations Gungjung-tteok-bokki
Cookbook: Tteok-bokki  Media: Tteok-bokki
Korean name
Hangul 떡볶이
Revised Romanization tteok-bokki
McCune–Reischauer ttŏk-pokki
IPA [t͈ʌk̚.p͈o.k͈i]

Tteok-bokki[1] (떡볶이)[2][3] is a popular Korean food made from soft rice cake, fish cake, and the sweet red chili sauce called gochujang.[4] It is commonly purchased from street vendors or pojangmacha. Originally it was called tteok jjim (Korean: 떡찜) and was a savory braised dish of sliced rice cake, meat, eggs, and seasoning.


Tteok-bokki is a traditional Korean street food that can be purchased from street vendors, also called “pojangmacha” in Korean. The history of tteok-bokki dates back to the late Joseon dynasty. There are many hypotheses of its origin. According to bibliographic data, the first tteok-bokki in Korean history appears in a cook book called “Siui jeongseo (Korean: 시의정서)” written in the late Joseon dynasty. However, tteok (the main ingredient, also known as rice cake) was produced before in the Three Kingdoms period, suggesting tteok-bokki predates this period. Tteok-bokki can also be found in medical records: a book called “Shik nyo chanyo (Korean: 식료찬요)” written by Jeon Sunui, a medical officer in the Joseon dynasty (1460). The purpose of the book was to cure people through food and tteok-bokki was part of it.

Tteok-bokki was also a part of Korean royal court cuisine in the Joseon dynasty. While the modern tteok-bokki is red and has a spicy taste, the original tteok-bokki was brown and plain. It was called "gungjung-tteok-bokki (Korean: 궁중 떡볶이)", Royal Tteok-bokki. Just like the name implies, gungjung-tteok-bokki 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 chili peppers) during the Joseon dynasty, tteok-bokki became red and spicy. It is believed that the main transition from plain to spicy tteok-bokki occurred during the 1950s after the independence of Korea. In modern days, most of the tteok-bokki sold in street vendors is red and spicy.

Presently, tteok-bokki is mostly regarded as a street food available from street vendors. Recently, however, there have been efforts to turn tteok-bokki from street food culture to a food franchise. This is mainly because of the continuous demand for tteok-bokki among Korean people. Tteok-bokki is now regarded by some as a big potential business. As a result, many brands and chain restaurants of tteok-bokki have appeared since 2009. Additionally, there are also efforts to globalize tteok-bokki in the international food market. Korean government has established a so-called tteok-bokki 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 tteok-bokki into an international product. In order to achieve a place for tteok-bokki 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 tteok-bokki 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. [5] [6]

Modern history[edit]

Noodle tteok-bokki (Korean: 쫄볶이)

Following the Korean War, a new type of tteok-bokki 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 tteok-bokki used gochujang, a fermented, spicy paste made from chilli peppers, along with fish cakes. Other ingredients added to tteok-bokki include boiled eggs, pan-fried mandu (Korean dumplings), sausages, ramyeon (which then becomes rabokki/labokki (Korean: 라볶이)), a variety of fried vegetables, and cheese. These days, many kinds of tteok-bokki are popular such as seafood tteok-bokki (Korean: 해물 떡볶이) or rice tteok-bokki (Korean: 쌀떡볶이). Flour tteok-bokki was popular in the past, but rice tteok-bokki is more popular in the present.

Sindang-dong in Seoul, where tteok-bokki was first sold, is still very famous for the dish and treated as the mekkah or the center of tteok-bokki. Since tteok-bokki has become one of the most popular dishes, one will easily find a place to enjoy eating tteok-bokki in Korea.


Typical ingredients of tteok-bokki are boiled rice cakes ("tteok"), Surimi ("eomuk"), spring onion, 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).


Tteok jjim, an early variant of modern tteok-bokki, was once a part of Korean royal court cuisine.[7] This type of topokki was made by boiling Garaetteok, Kamaboko, meat, vegetables, eggs, and seasonings in water, and then serving it topped with ginkgo nuts and walnuts. In its original form, tteok-bokki, which was then known as gungjung-tteok-bokki, was a dish served in the royal court and regarded as a representative example of haute cuisine. The original tteok-bokki 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.[8]

Types of tteok-bokki[edit]

Due to the constant popularity of tteok-bokki, many kinds of tteok-bokki have been invented. Just like other types of popular food, tteok-bokki went through various fusions. For example, tteok-bokki with pork cutlet is a combination of traditional tteok-bokki 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 tteok-bokki among Koreans is rabokki, a combination of tteok-bokki and ramyeon (the Korean version of ramen). For busy people, tteok-bokki 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 tteok-bokki, such as curry tteok-bokki, seafood tteok-bokki, tteok-bokki pasta, cheese tteok-bokki, chicken tteok-bokki, etc. [9]


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. Tteok-bokki 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.[10]

Cream sauce tteok-bokki[edit]

Cream sauce tteok-bokki (or Carbonara tteok-bokki)[11] is a combination of the Korean style carbonara sauce and rice cakes. It did away with stereotypes that tteok-bokki is red and spicy food.


See also[edit]


External links[edit]