I met Marcel Carreiro at a Korean language school down in Sanjose last month. When everybody was about to leave, Marcel came up to me and asked if I had a recipe for “Ddeok-boggi”. “Of course I have…I have been cooking “Ddeok-boggi” all my life ever since I was a little girl…”..but wait!!!..let me think…. I DO know how to make this dish…but do I have a recipe for it? The answer was an embasassing “no”. We grow up with this food in Korea. Everybody has a special memory associated with this dish and boasts about how they cook it better than others. Most people know how to make it by heart but not many people have recipes for this dish because it’s a part of our life.
When Koreans are old enough to eat spicy Korean food (let’s say elementary school), this is what we start with for a life-long journey of spicy Korean food. Some say that Kimchi is the first spicy food to them and gradually they move on to other spicy foods. To me, it was “Ddeok-boggi” that got me into spicy food for the first time. I was sitting on a small wooden chair at a snack bar in front of my elementary school. There were a few of my friends and all of us had a handkerchief pinned to our left side. We were only 8 years old and those hankerchiefs were a requirement of the school so that we could always clean our runny noses. I still remember how spicy it was to me. We all had our hands close to our mouths and tried to create a breeze by shaking them hoping that the small wind would cool down our tongues that were on fire. I have many fond memories of sharing gossip, secrets, and even math problems over a nice bowl of this dish.
Is it rainning outside? Make this dish.
Are you getting together with friends? Everybody will ask for the recipe.
Are you watching football? It’s a great snack.
Don’t know what to make for dinner? One bowl will make your family happy and full. Did you get dumped? What do you think I’m going to say?
Speaking of occassions associated with “Ddeok-boggi” I remember a time when my husband John came to visit Korea 5 years ago(We were not married then). It was about 2:00am in downtown Seoul and after a night of bar hopping we were quite hungry. No restaurants were open at that time but the street was full of food vendors selling street food in wagons. Every vendor was selling this dish and John really wanted to try it. Do you know what he said after having a bite of the rice cake? “Hmmmm, this is like Korean pasta, isn’t it?” What an interesting concetpt? I have never thought about comparing “Ddeok-boggi” to Italian pasta. I would have never thought about calling Italian pasta “Italian Ddeok-boggi”. Well, once you make this dish and taste it, you will understand what I mean…
It took longer than I thought to scale down every ingredient I use to make “Ddeok-boggi”. After struggling with measuring spoons, measuring cups, and scales and going through several kitchen tests, I proudly present you with a fail-proof recipe for this Korean Mac and Cheese!!!
*Ingredients (4 portions)
Rice Cake: 1.3 Lb (600gm)
Low Sodium chicken stock: 4 cups (32oz)
Fish cake[Eo-mook]: 4 sheets (about 3.5 by 5.5 inch)
Green Cabbage: 1/4 head
Green Onion: 4
Red pepper paste[Gochu-jang] : 2 Tbsp
Red pepper powder[Gochu-garu]: 1 Tbsp
Soybean paste(doen-jang): 1 Tbsp
Garlic: 2 Cloves
Corn Syrup: 3 Tbsp
Sugar: 1 Tbsp
Sesame Oil: 1 tsp
Roasted sesame seeds: 1 tsp
want to show you what kind of rice cake and fish cake you should get. For rice cakes, chose the ones about 2inchs in length and thickness of a finger. For fish cake, you can find flat ones as shown in photos.
Submerge the rice cakes in water for about an hour and drain. You can also blanch them in a pot of boiling water very briefly for about 10 seconds and drain
Cut the fish cakes in squares of 1.5 inch length. Cut cabbage into a similar size as the fish cakes. Cut Green Onions in 2 inch length.
Prepare all 8 different seasonings. Garlic needs to be minced.
In a pan, boil chicken stock at very high heat.
When chicken stock boils, add red pepper paste, red pepper powder, garlic, corn syrup, sugar, and soy bean paste. Stir well until everything dissolves.
Occasionally, skim the foam. Don’t reduce the heat.
Add rice cake and fish cake.
Once it starts boiling again stir with a spoon occasionally to prevent rice cakes from sticking to the bottom of the pan
You can see the rice cakes are getting softer, fluffy, and chubby from absorbing the liquid. Continue stiring.
The liquid has reduced by 1/3 and looks thicker due to the starch from rice cakes. Total cooking time of rice cake and fish cake till this point is about 5 minutes.
Add cabbage and stir for 1 minute. From now on, stir continuously. Be careful not to burn the rice cake on the bottom of the pan.
Turn off the heat and add green onions. Mix it all together.
Give it a last touch by adding sesame oil and sesame seeds. Mix well.