Sweet and Savory Gungjung Tteokbokki
I first heard about gungjung tteokbokki at The Kunjip restaurant in New York’s Koreatown many years ago when I was in the mood for some delicious stick to the ribs comfort food. While most of my family love the more popular red hot tteokbokki, my tolerance for spice is waning as I get older and the helpful waitress suggested we try the hearty non-spicy version. I got some groans from the kids but the dish was a hit with the whole family.
The Kunjip has been serving authentic homestyle Korean food in midtown Manhattan since the 1980s and it is usually our first destination whenever we arrive in NYC. The lines are often long but thankfully they now have a reservation system both online and over the phone. Our second destination is usually H Mart which is a couple doors down from The Kunjip where we get all the groceries we need to recreate the delicious meals we have at the restaurant.
Gungjung means “royal court” in Korean, and this version of the beloved Korean snack food dates back to the Joseon Dynasty, long before the time that Koreans discovered and fell in love with the spicy chile pepper in the early 17th century and began adding it to their cooking on a regular basis.
Gungjung tteokbokki hints at the flavors of japchae and includes some of the same vegetables and meat, yet the unmistakably satisfying chew of Korean rice cakes makes this a uniquely versatile dish that can be eaten as a meal or as a side dish.
I love to make gungjung tteokbokki when I already have some leftover bulgogi on hand. Most of the sauce ingredients are always in my pantry and then I use whatever vegetables I have in the fridge be it white button mushrooms, zucchini, onions, scallions, or carrots. Asparagus and peppers are great additions as well.
- 1 pound long rice cakes (tteokbokki tteok)
- 4 ounces bulgogi or other slized lean beef
- 3 or 4 shiitake or white mushrooms
- 1/2 medium zucchini
- 1 medium carrot
- 1/2 large onion
- 1-2 scallions
- cooking oil
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice wine or mirin
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
- pinch black pepper
- Mix the sauce ingredients well and set aside. Bring water to a boil in a medium size pot. Add the rice cake pieces. Boil until all the pieces float to the top then boil another minute. The time required will vary depending on the condition of rice cakes. The rice cakes will be very soft when cooked, but they will become harder as they cool. Drain them out with a sieve. Do not rinse. Mix with 2 tablespoons of the prepared sauce. Set aside.
- In a lightly heated and oiled skillet, stir fry the onion for a couple minutes then add the carrot and zucchini over medium high heat, about 2 minutes. Add the scallion at the end (not in the photo). Transfer to a bowl.
- Add the meat and stir fry another few minutes then add the rice cake and sauce. Remove from heat
- Add the scallion and transfer to a bowl.
Gungjung Tteokbokki Notes
- Double the sauce if you like your tteokbokki with more liquid
- Experiment with different vegetables
- If you are using frozen tteok, make sure to soak it in water for at least 20 minutes
- Gungjung Tteokbokki keeps in the fridge for 3-5 days and can be heated up in the microwave with a bit of extra water added