The other weekend was very special and, like any special occasion, deserved special snacks.
It was the two-day online concert of BTS, “Map of the Soul: ON:E,” that I, along with the other fans and Army titas, have been waiting for. In preparation for the much-awaited concert, I, like a natural crammer, rushed to the kitchen an hour before the online countdown to make snacks.
I’m a kakanin kind of girl. I like chewy, gooey snacks, salty, sweet or both. Korea’s tteokbokki (stir-fried rice cakes) is top of mind when it comes to comfort food. Jimin of BTS once jokingly said, “Everyone, you should have tteokbokki at Christmas! Merry Christmas!” Because, really, at the end of the day, rice is life.
I always have to have this each time I visit Korea. That, and the fried snacks that are good on their own, but even better dipped into the tteokbokki sauce.
One of my favorite places to have tteokbokki is Gwangjang market in Seoul. My sister, my best friend and I always have Gwangjang market on our hit list. It isn’t necessarily famous for tteokbokki, but I especially enjoy having it there because of the lively vibe of the market, getting to have it side-by-side with one of my favorite fried snacks. Best of all, I get to sit down while eating (versus standing up at Myeongdong or at street carts).
Since service is bar-style, where you share a bench and eat by the counter, it can become especially interesting depending on who you are seated with. One time, my friend Eileen and I ended up exchanging song lists with a Korean grandpa—but that’s another story.
The priority item on the list would be the thick, crispy mung bean pancake (bindaetteok) that this market is famous for. Go straight for the stalls in the middle of the market, and you will see tall piles of bindaetteok to keep up with the orders while they grind the mung bean in old-fashioned hand-worked stone mills behind the counters.
We would always order a bottle of makgeolli (rice wine) even at 10 a.m., because it’s never too early to have some when you are on vacation.
Imagine the piping-hot, crispy pancakes dipped into the spicy red tteokbokki sauce, then washed down with a nice boozy, fizzy drink. ASMR effects, please (slams hand on table!). Now that’s a moment.
Now back to the snack tray at hand: tteokbokki and fried snacks for the concert. I didn’t even attempt to make bindaetteok because grinding the mung bean seemed too much work. Instead, I made fried vegetable fritters with tteokbokki .
Let me introduce you to my three tteokbokki levels of commitment.
1. Cannot be bothered. Convenience store-friendly tteokbokki cups that can’t get any easier to prepare. I can’t vouch for this, though, because I’ve never tried it and have gotten mixed reviews. Or you can save yourself the trouble of unwrapping the packaging and nuking it by opting for delivery.
2. Bultaorunae (fire). Ready to give it a spin! Roll up your sleeves and mentally prepare for a 20-minute kitchen commitment. (Recipe from the ever colorful maangchi.com)
1 lb of cylinder-shaped rice cake, bought or homemade. (Use a little more if you’re not adding hard-boiled eggs and fish cakes.)4 c water
7 large-size dried anchovies, heads and intestines removed
6 x 8 inch dried kelp
⅓ c hot pepper paste
1 Tbsp hot pepper flakes
1 Tbsp sugar
3 green onions, cut into 3-inch long pieces
2 hard-boiled eggs, shelled (optional)
½ lb fish cakes (optional)
Add the water, dried anchovies and dried kelp to a shallow pot or pan. Boil for 15 minutes.
Combine hot pepper paste, hot pepper flakes and sugar in a small bowl. Remove the anchovies and kelp from the pot and add the rice cake,
the mixture in the bowl, the green onion, and the optional fish cakes and hard-boiled eggs. Stir gently with a wooden spoon until the rice cake turns soft and the sauce thickens, about 10 -15 minutes. Remove from heat and serve hot.
Note: If you want to simplify it, skip the anchovies and kelp. Also, if you can get fresh tteokbokki, it’s chewier than the frozen ones sold at the grocery.
3. UGH! Gigil levels with a side of fried snacks. Everything is better fried.
Fried Vegetable Fritters
(Inspired by Kang’s Kitchen)
½ c carrot strips
½ c beet root strips
½ c sweet potato strips
½ c potato strips
1 c flour
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1 c water
Stir flour, cornstarch and water to make batter. Mix vegetables with batter. Pour 1 cup of the vegetable mix into hot oil and fry. Serve.
How hot is hot? Since not everyone can enjoy spicy food (I’m looking at you, Mom and Ana), I suggest adding mozzarella to the tteokbokki to finish it off and tone down the heat. Besides, who can say no to ooey, gooey cheese? —CONTRIBUTED INQThe author is an executive of a luxury goods company.
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