Korean Street Food: Topokki

Written by on April 9, 2013 in Lifestyle

If you’re coming to Korea, you are in for a treat. Not only is the nation teeming with great things to see and do, it’s home to some of the best food on the plant. This month Featured Writer Steve Miller begins a month-long series highlighting some of his favorite Korean Street Foods. To kick off the series, he’s showing us one of the most ubiquitous foods in the land: ddeokbokki tteokbikki topokki.

Topokki

Over the years, 떡볶이 has been romanized a number of different ways, with tteokbokki being the most widely used. However, a couple of years ago the Korean government updated the official romanization guidelines for several foods. On that list was this week’s selection. Because many around the world had trouble correctly pronouncing tteokbokki, the official spelling was changed to topokki to better reflect its sound in English. But what is it?

During the Joseon Dynasty, topokki was presented in a very different manner than today. In fact, the method of preparation and presentation was a stark contrast to what we see on just about every street corner in Seoul. Joseon era topokki was a savory dish that consisted of the cylindrical rice cakes (garae tteok) we still identify with topokki, meat, vegetables, seasonings, eggs, and topped with ginko (or other) nuts.

Modern topokki is typically made up of garae tteok, fishcakes, and gochujang (red chili paste). This version caught on like wild fire following the Korean War and quickly became the standard way of preparing the dish. In addition to the standard street food preparation style, many restaurants serve up the dish by adding ramyun noodles, dumplings, sausage, spring onions, and cheese.

Making Topokki

Want to make this dish at home? You can! Here’s an easy recipe to follow at home to make this Korean Street Food staple.

Ingredients

  • 2 Cups Cylindrical Rice Cakes
  • 2 Fish Cakes
  • ⅔ Cup Onion
  • ½ Cup Carrot
  • 1 Green Onion

Broth

  • 2½ Cups Water
  • 3 Tbsp Red Pepper Paste
  • 1 Tbsp Red Pepper Powder
  • 2 Tbsp Corn Syrup
  • ½ Tbsp Sugar
  • 1 Tbsp Soy Sauce
  • ½ Tbsp Minced Garlic

Directions

Slice ½ cup of onion into quarter inch pieces. Cut ½ cup of carrots into diagonal strips. Cut 1 green onion into ½-inch pieces. Cut the cooked fish cakes and the sticky rice cakes into 2 inch pieces.

Bring the water to boil. Add  3 Tbsp of red pepper paste, 1 Tbsp of red pepper powder, 2 Tbsp of corn syrup, ½ Tbsp of sugar, 1 Tbsp of soy sauce, and ½ Tbsp of minced garlic to the water. Depending on your taste, you can make your tteokbokki sweeter or spicier by changing the amount of sugar or red pepper paste. Simmer for 5 minutes on medium-high.

Add the rice cakes, carrot, onion, and cabbage into the broth and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Add the fish cakes and cook for one minute. Turn off the heat and add the spring onions.

Plate and serve.

Steve will return next week with another common street food so be sure to check back in.

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About the Author

Steve Miller

Steve Miller, the QiRanger, is Korea’s best-known travel video blogger-journalist. His videos have been viewed by millions and seen on media outlets in throughout the word. In addition to sharing his entertaining and informative videos, he writes about life abroad and releases a popular podcast. Steve appears regularly on international radio stations, talking about travel, Korean culture and East Asian news. He’s also appeared on Arirang Television sharing unique aspects of Korean life. You can follow Steve on Twitter @QiRanger or visit his site QiRanger.com.