Cake is a food that most of us are familiar with. Many eat it on our birthdays, most eat it on our wedding days. In my 22 years of living, I’ve eaten cakes of all kinds; Devil’s Food, Red Velvet, Strawberry Shortcake, Lemon Pound Cake…but a pan fried cake? Okay sure, I eat those for breakfast all the time. Crepes, flapjacks, Johnny cakes…those are all pan fried cakes!
Koreans seem to see cake in a different way though. Gummy white blobs (for some reason unknown to me) are considered cakes in Korea. Tteok (pronounced “duck”) as they are better known to Korean people, are a traditional rice cake usually eaten on New Years, weddings and birthdays. In no way, shape, or form do these resemble the cakes we are used to in the western world and can be served sweet with nuts and fruit, or savory covered in sauce.
As I was walking down Finch street (a part of Toronto with a very high population of Korean people), I passed a small little food cart selling these little rice cakes on sticks along with a selection of other traditional Korean street foods.
A common way of eating tteok is simmering it in a sauce made with Korean hot pepper paste, sugar, and soy sauce and mixed with green onion and sometimes fish cakes. This is known as “Tteok-pokki“. (https://www.dramafever.com/news/how-to-make-spicy-korean-rice-cakes-tteok-ppoki-/)
EDIT: I’ve just been informed by a classmate that these things are actually called “Ttoek-poCHI”! Thanks Olivia!
This little food cart (which had no name, but look for it on Finch and Yonge!), serves a street-food friendly twist on the traditional dish by putting them onto bamboo skewers, pan frying them and brushing the sweet and spicy sauce. They practically give these things away at $1.25 a skewer!
As a general rule of thumb, anything with a bright red sauce is going to be spicy. 5 rolls of white, doughy mass are covered in what one can only assume is a spicy sauce.
You don’t have to stick your nose right up in this thing to tell it’s covered in hot pepper. A sweet, almost caramel like scent follows and then you’re hit with the pungent smell of fried garlic! At this point, my girlfriend had to go get me two more because there was no way I was just eating ONE of these.
Mostly sweet, not as spicy as it looked. Then again, I’ve eaten so much spicy food in my lifetime, that not much is considered “HOT AND SPICY” to me anymore. Slightly garlic-y. The rice cake itself was ever so slightly sweet, but there wasn’t much flavor to it by itself.
OOOOHHHHHHHH BOY. This was a textural roller coaster. First, we have that nice crispy exterior. It forms sort of like a skin on the rice cake, the best thing I can compare it to are those corner pieces of the lasagna that my brother and I used to fight for. I’m pretty sure wars could be settled over crispy skin, whether it be on fish, chicken or a Korean rice cake. Inside was a firm, yet chewy texture, almost like a really thick noodle or a ju-jube.
As I learned, Korean rice cakes are just big, dense, chewy pasta. AND THERE AIN’T A DAMN THING WRONG WITH BIG, DENSE, CHEWY PASTA. LARGE KOREAN MACARONIS.
Catch me on Finch street again, munching 25 of these bad boys. Someone better bring me some napkins!
Till next time folks!