Tteokguk 떡국 (rice cake soup) is a deliciously hot soup perfect for the winter! It is a traditional dish eaten during the celebration of the Korean New Year (Seollal); these days Koreans also have tteokguk on January 1st, too. The dish consists of the broth/soup (guk) with thinly sliced rice cakes (tteok). It is tradition to eat tteokguk on New Year’s Day because it is believed to grant the consumer good luck for the year. It is usually garnished with thin julienned cooked eggs, marinated meat, and gim.
Traditionally, there was a custom of having a bowl of tteokguk in the morning of New Year’s Day to get a year older, and the custom of saying “How many bowls of tteokguk have you eaten?” to ask a person’s age. The whiteness of the soup symbolizes a clean, fresh start to the new year, and the disc-shaped rice cakes look like coins, so they symbolize a wish for upcoming prosperity for anyone who eats them.
Saeng tteokguk (생떡국) or nal tteokguk (날떡국) – a specialty of Chungcheong province, where a mixture of non-glutinous rice with glutinous rice is made into small balls or rolled into a long, cylindrical ‘garaetteok’ shape and then sliced into a boiling broth.
Joraengi tteokguk (조랭이 떡국) – from the Kaesong region with the tteok twisted in small cocoon shapes.
Another variety, tteokmanduguk, is literally tteokguk with additional mandu!
Yummy! 정말 맛있어요!
- 450g (1-pound) store-bought sliced tteok rice cakes or homemade rice cakes (store-bought or homemade, if they are frozen, soak them in cold water for 30 minutes and drain before using)
- 7 cups water
- 225g (½ pound) beef (flank steak), chopped into small pieces
- 3 to 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 green onions, washed and sliced thinly and diagonally.
- 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- 2 eggs
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce (or soy sauce to your taste)
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 sheet of gim (black seaweed paper)
- 1 red pepper (optional), chopped
- Put the water in a heavy pot, cover, and bring it to a vigorous boil over high heat for 12 to 15 minutes.
- Add the beef and garlic and lower the heat to medium. Cover and let it boil for 20 to 25 minutes more until you get a delicious broth
- Roast both sides of a sheet of gim until it’s bright green and very crispy. Put it in a plastic bag and crush it by hand. Set aside.
- Separate the egg yolks from the whites of two eggs, putting yolks and whites into separate bowls. Add a pinch of salt to each and mix with a fork.
- Add the cooking oil to a heated non-stick pan. Swirl the oil around so it covers the pan, and then wipe off the excess with a kitchen towel, leaving a thin oily layer on the pan.
- Turn off the heat. Pour the egg yolk mixture into the pan and tilt it so it spreads evenly and thinly. Let it cook on the hot pan for about 1 minute. Flip it over and let it sit on the pan for another minute, then take it off, slice it into thin strips and set it aside.
- Add the rice cake to the boiling soup along with fish sauce, salt, and sliced green onion. Stir it with a ladle. Cover and let it cook for 7 to 8 minutes until all the rice cakes are floating. Pour the salted egg whites into the boiling soup and let it cook for a minute.
- Add sesame oil, ground black pepper, and chopped green onion. Stir it well. Remove it from the heat and ladle the rice cake soup into individual serving bowls. Garnish with chopped green onion, yellow egg strips, crushed seaweed, and red pepper if you want.
- Serve it right away, with kimchi and more side dishes if you want. If you wait too long the rice cakes will get soggy, so dig in and enjoy!
Beef broth is used in this recipe, but you can use any meat you prefer. You can also use seafood, or just make an anchovy stock. Try a kelp stock for a vegan alternative. Replace beef with chunky mushrooms and for a great egg replacement, machine-whip some chickpea water in a bowl until you see stiff peaks. Add half a teaspoon of lemon juice to help it stiffen. Fold in dry, finely-cut vegetables, cook it as you would an omelette in an oil-coated pan, cut your vegan omelette into strips and add it to your bowl.
Featured image source: ©Tteokguk, 19.11.2018, www.pixabay.com
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