Tteokbokki: The Spicy Heart of Korean Street Food – Bokksu Market

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Tteokbokki: The Spicy Heart of Korean Street Food

by Bokksu Staff

Tteokbokki is one of the most famous street foods in South Korea. The umami-rich rice cake embodies all of the traits of Korean street food. It’s spicy, versatile, and absolutely delicious!

What started out as a royal court dish is now the pride of the entire country. Today, tteokbokki is a world-class snack with several variations. It’s a reminder of the cultural identity of Korea and a global representative of Asian street food cuisine.

In this post, we’ll explore everything you need to know about tteokbokki, including its key ingredients, history, types, pairings, and enhancement tips. Let’s dive in!

What is Tteokbokki? A Culinary Staple Explained


Tteokbokki is a stir-fried spicy Korean rice cake. It’s typically made from garae-tteok (non-glutinous rice cakes), gochujang (red chili paste), Korean soup stock, soy sauce, and garlic. Other common ingredients added to tteokbokki are fish cakes, sugar, sesame oil, fish broth, onions, and various types of meats. Most times, people eat tteokbokki with boiled eggs, Korean fish cake soup, scallions, and seaweed rolls. Typical tteokbokki is spicy, chewy, and slightly sweet. It’s like a firmer and chewier version of Japanese mochi.

Traditional tteokbokki can be prepared by using non-glutinous rice flour to make rice cakes. The simmered cakes are cut and rolled into long, cylindrical shapes before they’re boiled in a soup stock over medium-high heat and mixed with sauces and other ingredients in a large bowl. The dish has countless variations based on either added ingredients or the sauce used as the base.

Generally, tteokbokki takes 20 to 30 minutes to make at home. If you can’t find the time to make it yourself, you can always buy ready-made tteokbokki. The instant version of the spicy rice cake doesn’t require all of the elaborate chopping and boiling. All you need to do is heat it for a few minutes and your delicious tteokbokki will be ready to eat. We highly recommend that you try Yopokki Instant Tteokbokki: Original Sweet & Spicy for the authentic taste of Korean spicy rice cakes.

Yopokki Instant Tteokbokki Rice Cake Cup: Original Sweet & Spicy

Tteokbokki (or ddukbokki) is a popular spicy rice rice cake dish from Korea. It involves simmering garaetteok, a soft, chewy, elongated rice cake in a tomato-based chili sauce. Instead of creating a homemade version, you can heat this convenient rice cake cup in minutes. Top your Yopokki cup with shredded cheese for an authentic spicy, sweet Korean snack.

Common Allergens: Wheat, Soy. May also contain: Alcohol.

4.94 oz

The History of Tteokbokki: From Royal Cuisine to Street Food

Tteokbokki street food

The spicy version of tteokbokki that we know and love today is quite different from the original version. In the pre-modern era, members of the Korean royal court first consumed tteokbokki. This version of the rice cake was called Gungjung Tteokbokki, and it was made from rice cakes, pine nuts, sesame oil, and sirloin. The dish was neither stir-fried nor spicy.

In the 19th century, a different version of tteokbokki called steokbokgi began to gain prominence and was one of 400+ recipes in the famous Si Eui Jeon Seo cookbook. This was a little more similar to modern tteokbokki on account of its use of stir-frying as a cooking method. The dish also appeared in about eight other recipe books around that period.

Tteokbokki transformed into a luxury dish in the 1930s and only a few members of society had access to it. This version was the closest to modern tteokbokki. It was less spicy and used oil and soy sauce, unlike modern versions that use red pepper paste. It also used pine nuts and sesame seeds instead of fish cakes.

The Korean War of 1950–53 had the greatest impact on tteokbokki and, in fact, was the catalyst for the modern versions we know and love today. After the war, the Agricultural Trade Development and Assistance Act was passed in 1954. It allowed the United States to supply Korea with surplus agricultural products, especially flour. The result was a scarcity of rice and a surplus of flour in the country. Local diets switched from rice-based to flour-based diets, resulting in Korean rice cakes being made with flour. This led to the creation of garae-tteok, the rice cake variant used to make modern tteokbokki. It was first used as a deep-fried Korean New Year dish in the 1950s.

Today, tteokbokki is a staple dish served in restaurants, stores, and street food stalls across Korea and other parts of the world.

Types of Tteokbokki: Exploring Varieties

Gungjung tteokbokki

There are different kinds of tteokbokki, based on their secondary ingredients, sauce, or special features. Let’s explore them:

Types of Tteokbokki Based On Ingredients

Some variations of tteokbokki are classified based on the secondary ingredients used to make the dish. They mostly contain the basics, like garae-tteok, gochujang, and soup stock, combined with the additional ingredients that bring variety to the dish. Below are the most common types:

  • Haemul-tteokbokki: Also known as seafood tteokbokki, it contains seafood ingredients such as shrimp and squid.

  • Noodle tteokbokki: This type uses noodles as an ingredient and has two common variants. The first is ra-bokki (with ramen noodles) and the second is jjol-bokki (with jjolmyeon wheat noodles).

  • Galbi-tteokbokki: It’s made with beef short ribs.

Types of Tteokbokki Based On Sauce

Tteokbokki is never complete without some kind of sauce. Contemporary versions of the meal use two main sauces as their base. Check them out below.

  • Gochujang tteokbokki: This is a spicy sauce made with gochujang, a traditional Korean red chili paste. It adds a sweet, savory, and spicy taste to tteokbokki. This is the most popular type in the 21st century.

  • Gungjung tteokbokki: This type of rice cake uses brown soup soy sauce as its base. It was a common Korean royal court cuisine in pre-modern times and one of the first iterations of the dish. Today, gungjung tteokbokki is nearly obsolete. However, people still make a similar version of the non-spicy rice cake using regular soy sauce.

Types of Tteokbokki Based On Special Features

Some variations of tteokbokki have a special base or preparation method, which entitles them to be categorized based on their special features. They include the following:

  • Curry tteok-bokki: It’s made with a Korean-style curry base.

  • Cream sauce tteok-bokki: Gochujang or soy sauce is replaced with cream sauce and fish cake is replaced with bacon. 

  • Mala tteokbokki: This is a fusion variation that combines Korean tteokbokki ingredients with Chinese malatang ingredients.

  • Cheese tteok-bokki: This is a type of tteokbokki stuffed or topped with cheese.

  • Sweet red bean tteokbokki: This is made with sweet red bean flavor and is a specialty of Korean rice cake producers, Yopokki.

Yopokki Instant Tteokbokki Rice Cake Cup: Sweet Red Bean

Sweet, spicy, and savory, this yummy instant tteokbokki rice cake cup has it all! Made with a sweet red bean flavor, you'll love the complex taste this item offers. Tteokbokki is a dish made with chewy, simmered rice cakes, which make a perfect base for this tasty snack. 

Common Allergens: Wheat, Soy. May also contain: Alcohol.

4.23 oz

The Key Ingredients in Tteokbokki

Korean rice cake

Let’s take a closer look at the core ingredients used in traditional tteokbokki recipes.

  • Gochujang: Also called Korean chili paste, it’s made from gochu-garu (Korean chili powder), glutinous rice, and other ingredients. This brings heat to the tteokbokki. We recommend Wang Gochujang as the perfect condiment for any traditional tteokbokki recipe.

  • Rice cake: The most common stir-fried rice cake or tteok, used in modern tteokbokki is garae-tteok.

  • Korean fish cake: Also called eomuk, it’s a tasty side dish made from pureed fish, vegetables, and sauce.

  • Minced garlic: It adds some pungency and a little more spice to the meal.

  • Soy sauce: It makes the rice cakes more savory and sweet.

  • Korean soup stock: It’s typically a combination of dried kelp, anchovies, or both, with several seasonings.

Wang Gochujang Red Pepper Paste

You may be wondering - what is gochujang? Gochujang is a smooth spicy chili paste and a star in Korean cooking. It’s made from gochugaru (Korean chili powder) and the flavor itself is quite complex but still balanced - sweet, sour, spicy, and umami all in one! You can appreciate the flavor of gochujang in many Korean dishes like Budae Jjigae (Korean Army Stew), Dakgalbi (Spicy Korean Chicken Stir Fry), Tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes), bibimbap, bulgogi, ssamjang (dipping sauce for Korean barbecue), fried chicken, and more!

Common Allergens: Wheat. ​​May also contain: Alcohol.

17.6 oz

Tteokbokki for Every Palate: Customizing Your Dish

What we love the most about tteokbokki is how you can customize it to suit your tastes and cravings. Feel free to top or garnish it with boiled eggs, ramen, tempura, green onion, cheese, and sausages to enhance the taste.

Stumbled on a particular flavor you like? You can get more of it by adding certain ingredients to the main course. For instance, you can improve the Dongwon Cheese Tteokbokki Cup by adding even more cheese to it.

Can’t take a lot of heat? Reduce the amount of gochujang you use. If it’s too late to do that, try adding sugar, proteins, green onions, and sweet vegetables to balance the spice.

Pairing Tteokbokki with Other Korean Dishes

A variety of Korean dishes

We have some suggestions for dishes that pair well with tteokbokki, creating a complete Korean dining experience. They include mandu (Korean dumplings), kimbap (Korean seaweed rice roll), bungeoppang (Korean fish-shaped pastry), ramyun, and, of course, kimchi. Get the delicious Yopokki Instant Rabokki with Kimchi Sauce to enjoy the combined flavors of tteokbokki, ramyun, and kimchi in one wholesome meal.

Yopokki Instant Rabokki Ramen and Tteokbokki Rice Cake Cup: Kimchi

Rabokki (or rapokki) is a combination of tteokbokki (or ddukbokki) spicy rice cakes and ramyeun noodles. It is a beloved Korean street food dish, but with this instant version, there’s no more need to hit the streets. Enjoy the chewy tteokbokki, springy ramyeon, and spicy-sweet kimchi sauce all in the comfort of your own home. In true Korean street food fashion, feel free to add eomuk (fish cakes), boiled eggs, and fresh kimchi.

Common Allergens: Shellfish, Wheat, Soy.

5.11 oz

Where to Find Tteokbokki: From Street Vendors to Your Kitchen


You can easily find hot tteokbokki in Korean street food markets and specialty shops. Many street vendors operate in small stalls and use traditional recipes. Another way to get some tteokbokki is to cook it yourself. Many of the ingredients you would need can be purchased online or at local Korean grocery stores. The fastest and easiest way to enjoy tasty tteokbokki is to get it ready to eat (instant) from Bokksu Market.

Why Tteokbokki Remains a Beloved Korean Delicacy

In Korea, the rich history and cultural significance of tteokbokki make it one of the most beloved delicacies of all time. It’s also becoming more popular outside of the country. Why? Not many street foods can claim to have the same level of versatility and delicious taste as the spicy rice cake. People abroad can easily adapt the dish to their palette. Before you try making tteokbokki at home, we recommend that you get a taste of the cooked or pre-made version. Try as many flavors and variations as you can to see which ones you love the most.

Author Bio

Tteokbokki: The Spicy Heart of Korean Street Food


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