Restaurant: Seoul Jung (inside Lawrence Plaza Food Court)
City: Santa Clara, CA
I had lunch with my parents at Lawrence Plaza Food Court. Since there were several food stalls in the food court, my mom wanted to order from two different ones to share. I got Seoul Jung’s “rice cake” dish while my parents got a seafood noodle soup from a different food stand.
Seoul Jung’s “rice cake” dish turned out to be rabokki (ddeokbokki with ramyeon). The dish came with banchan and a small bowl of soup. The second photo is a close up of the spicy rice cake (ddeokbokki). The dish contained rice cake, fish cake, hard boiled egg, cabbage, green onion, leek, and noodles. As you can tell by the redness of the dish, it’s very spicy; my mom had trouble eating just one piece of rice cake! On the other hand, I enjoyed it! The hot and spicy dish warms you up really well on a cold, rainy, windy day!
Oh, and this was actually my first time having ddeokbokki (and rabokki). It wasn’t my first time having ddeok (rice cake), though. There’s a Shanghai dish that uses this type of rice cake, which I have yet to post!
떡볶이 (ddeokbokki, often translated “spicy rice cakes”) comes in many forms in Korea. (Seoul Taste)
Rabokki is a variation of the popular street food tteokbokki. Tteokbokki is fried sticky rice cakes in a sweet and spicy sauce along with some other veggies. Rabokki has the addition of ramen noodles and hard-boiled eggs. The chewy rice cakes and soft noodles soak up a lot of flavor. (Aeri’s Kitchen)
Read on for more info on ddeokbokki, and rabokki, from Wikipedia:
Tteokbokki or ddeokbokki is a popular Korean snack food made from soft rice cake, fish cake and sweet red chili sauce. It is commonly purchased from street vendors or pojangmacha (small tented restaurants on wheels, or street stalls). Originally it was called tteok jjim (떡찜) and was a savory braised dish of sliced rice cake, meat, eggs, and seasoning.
The history of tteokbokki brings us back to the late Joseon dynasty. There are many hypotheses and controversy about its real origin. According to bibliographic data, the first tteokbokki in Korean history is said to appear in a cook book called “시의정서 (Siui jeongseo)” written in the late Joseon dynasty. However, based on the fact that tteok (the main ingredient, also known as rice cake) was produced even before in the Three Kingdoms period, it’s possible to assume that the history is longer than what’s usually considered. Tteokbokki can also be found in medical records: a book called “싱뇨찬요 (Shingnyo chanyo)” written by Jeon Sunui, a medical officer in the Joseon dynasty (1460). The purpose of the book was to cure people through food and tteokbokki was part of it.
Tteokbokki was also a part of Korean royal court cuisine in the Joseon dynasty. While the modern version of tteokbokki is red and spicy, the original version was brown and plain. It was called “궁중 떡볶이 (gungjung tteokbokki)”, Palace Tteokbokki. Just like the name implies, gunjeon tteokbokki was a main example of Korean haute cuisine. It was mainly composed with a combination of tteok, meat, vegetables and different kinds of seasoning. After the introduction of gochujang (Korean spicy paste made of chilli peppers) due to the Japanese influence in Joseon dynasty, tteokbokki became red and spicy. It’s believed that the main transition from plain to spicy tteokbokki occurred during the 1950s after the independence of Korea.
Following the Korean War, tteokbokki used gochujang, a fermented, spicy paste made from chilli peppers, along with fish cakes in addition to the traditional ingredients. Other ingredients added to tteokbokki include boiled eggs, pan-fried mandu (Korean dumplings), sausages, ramyeon (which then becomes rabokki/labokki 라볶이), a variety of fried vegetables, and cheese. These days, many kinds of tteokbokki are popular such as seafood tteokbokki (해물 떡볶이) or rice tteokbokki (쌀떡볶이). Flour tteokbokki was popular in early days, but rice tteokbokki is more popular these days.
Tteokbokki are also sold in skewers called “Tteok kkochi”. “Tteok kkochi” is mostly fried rather than boiled and the sauce is slightly different as well. There are many more different fusions of tteokbokki, such as curry tteokbokki, seafood tteokbokki, tteokbokki pasta, cheese tteokbokki, chicken tteokbokki, etc.