What is Tteok (떡)?
Tteok is a centerpiece of many Korean recipes. Its a versatile steamed rice cake that can come in many shapes, sizes and flavors. As you travel the world you will see that every culture has found a multitude of ways to use their primary crop in creative ways, Korea took it to a whole new level! Since rice, or “Bap (밥)” is so easy to grow, using very little resources, it dominates Korean cuisine. So much that, “bap” is not only the Korean word for rice, but also used as the general word for food. One of the most popular foods made with rice is the wonderful thing that is tteok!
Made from rice flour and a few other simple ingredients, pressed into cakes and steamed, this delightful delicacy is easily, the MVP of the dinner table! Tteok has a very delicate flavor, so it is easy to add to almost any recipe without overpowering the dish. Mothers throughout history would do this to feed their families delicious and healthy meals while still offering variety and ensuring that everyone would be full. To be honest, this world would be a sad place without the love, creativity and genius of mothers!
Tteok it to the Next Level!
Plain tteok can be found formed into cylindrical cakes that resemble pasta and added to almost any sauce as a quick and cheap way to stretch almost any meal. However, the most popular meal where tteok gets to be the star, is the amazing Tteokbokki (떡볶이)! Tteokbokki is tteok in a sweet and spicy chili sauce, often with strips of fishcakes, and could easily be one of the most popular street food in Korea. What about dessert? Unlike much of the world, dessert isn’t after most meals but they do love to make special treats.
Throughout history, children have always been seen as a gift. They are a sign of hope for the future, and traditionally meant that there would be someone to take care of you in your old age. Because of this, obedient children were rewarded almost as much as they were taught discipline. Mothers and Grandmothers would make sweet rice cakes and try to create something as beautiful as they were delicious. Children would share them with their friends, who would show them to their mothers. Of course those mothers would see the beautiful treats and not want to be outdone, they would try to make something even more beautiful for their kids to show off and share. Naturally, this fun and competitive spirit gave life to some tasty works of art that can be found in street markets, restaurants and competitions across modern day Korea.
Tteok it To-Go 🙂
Due to the fact that tteok can last a long time without refrigeration, they make a perfect treat for hikes, picnics and sending in a lunch for a loved one. Just imagine, you have been stressing over exams for school or a major project at work. Its lunch time and you sit down for a moment, open your lunch and there it is. Tteok! Beautiful, delicious tteok! Those yummy little works of art! You can tell that a lot of love and effort went into each piece. At that moment, stress has to wait as you enjoy those sticky morsels of love. You know that you have someone on your side, cheering you on and after a couple of pieces, you do the only natural thing in Korean dinning…. You share. Bringing happiness to those around you and silently bragging about the skill of the artist who loves you.
Tteok your time!
Making beautiful tteok is a skill that improves with time. If you have never made it before, you can’t expect to create a masterpiece on your fist try. This is a fun and yummy experiment. Have fun! Keep trying! Make a mess! Try again!
Here at InspireMeKorea, we want to share beautiful little pieces of the Korean culture like this and inspire you to try it out and then put your own twist on it. It always makes us so happy and excited to see your pictures and hear from you on your experiences! Please keep trying and keep sharing! As we endeavor to inspire you, you return the favor and inspire us! 감사합니다! Thank You!
Quick and Tasty Tteok:
1 cup sweet rice flour (Mochiko),
¾ cup water,
1 Tbsp. sugar,
¼ tsp salt,
starch powder (can use cornstarch or more of the rice flour).
(Repeat with as many colors as you like)
- Place 1 cup of sweet rice flour (Mochiko powder), ¼ tsp salt, 1 Tbsp. sugar in a microwave-safe bowl.
- In a bowl add a drop of food coloring to ¾ cup water and mix well.
- Combine the colored water to the rice flour mixture and mix it well with a spoon. Push the dough to the center of the bowl.
- Cover the dough with plastic wrap (make sure it is a microwave safe kind) and cook on high for 3 minutes in the microwave.
- Remove the rice cake from the microwave and mix it with a wooden spoon for about 20 seconds.
- Recover with the plastic wrap again and put it back in the microwave for another minute.
- Knead the hot rice cake with a wooden spoon vigorously in a circular motion about 100 times to make it chewy.
- Spread ¼ cup of starch powder on your cutting board and put the rice cake on it.
- Shape into a smooth 4×5 inch rectangle (10 cm x 12 cm) with wet hands and turn it over.
- Cut the rectangle into 8 even sized pieces with a wooden knife or spatula, and cover with Saran wrap to keep them from getting dried out.
- Time for the fun! Shape it, mold it, cut it or, combine it with other colored batches to make your own beautiful treats!
- Cover and place in the fridge to cool for about 30 min.