Thursday, December 16, 2010

Rabokki (라볶이)

I must thank my Korean housemate, Woo Aa, whom I stayed with for the three years that I was studying in Brisbane. She being Korean, introduced me to the Korean dish, 떡볶이 (ddeokbokki). Or to be specific, her aunt did. I remember the first time I tried the dish, it was cos her aunt from Korea was visiting, and one of the dishes that her aunt cooked was ddeokbokki. Her aunt offered us roomies some to try, and me, seeing that it was red (woohoo! red to me means that the dish is spicy - i love spicy food), I didn't think twice before putting a piece of the foreign looking ddeok into my mouth.

I've never looked back since that first bite, and probably never will. I fell so in love with the dish that I shamelessly asked Woo Aa's aunt for her recipe. During the span of my university education in Brisbane, I made this dish frequently (often during winter cos the hot dish is so apt for the cold weather). My cousin, who came over a few semesters later, was also as in love with Korean food as I was. Guess what cuisine we ended up cooking most of the time whenever we were over at each other's place? :)

On a side note, I'm actually learning Korean now with a couple of my girlfriends. We've just started and I must say it's a bit hard! I can't wait to become adept at the language properly though, cos it will be so fun to actually understand the Korean dramas better. Haha. That and it's always interesting to learn something new.

떡 (ddeok) - Korean rice cakes
Chopped ingredients ready for the pan

In fact, the dish is a popular Korean snack, which is commonly purchased from street vendors. Being a serial Korean drama fan, I'm always craving for Korean food. And after trying ddeokbokki myself, I understand why the Koreans in the dramas are always standing by the street, nomming on ddeokbokki at the street vendor stalls.

There's many ways of cooking the dish, with different households adding different ingredients (vegetables, eggs, Korean mandu, cheese, meat etc) for their own version of ddeokbokki. Woo Aa also told me that when you add 라면 (Korean ramyeon) to ddeokbokki, the dish name becomes rakbokki instead. I love adding ramyeon to my ddeokbokki cos it tastes so much better. I know I know, it's double the carbohyrates, but oh really, who cares about calories when it tastes so good? :)

Spicy stir-fried Korean rice cakes + ramyeon (라볶이)

I think this is one dish that you either love or hate. If you love carbs and sticky chewy food, you'll have the ultimate love affair with it. Take me, for instance, I've a weakness for carbs (sigh.) and I love the Chinese version of the rice cake, 粘糕 (nian gao), which is sticky and chewy too. So, really, what more can I say, except that I'm so under its spell?

Unfortunately for me, during all that packing I did when I finally returned to Singapore upon my graduation, I then misplaced that precious piece of paper with the authentic given-by-a-Korean-ahjumma ddeokbokki recipe. I only realised it when I was back in Singapore, and was craving ddeokbokki. A search for it yield nothing. Well, I comforted myself that since I've made the dish countless of times, I should be able to replicate a rough copy of the dish based on my memory. And hey, though I can't say whether this is the exact recipe Woo Aa's aunt gave me, this is basically what I've been using ever since then.

The recipe is just sorta like a shell. You can start off from the base, and then adjust the ingredients and seasonings to suit your preference. If you prefer the dish on the sweet side, up the sugar. If you can't take the spice, reduce the level of gochujang/gochugaru. And so on and so forth. I find cooking is so much more fun than baking cos it's really up to a cook to add a little bit of this or a little bit of that while tasting their food while they cook. If something taste weird, you can adjust the seasonings so the final dish turns out more or less as you envisioned it to be, whereas for baking, the taste is more or less fixed once you put the baking pan in the oven. Then again, I prefer baking to cooking cos I've got a sweet tooth... ;)

Rabokki (라볶이)
1/3 pack of 떡 (ddeok) - Korean rice cakes
1/2 medium carrot, sliced thinly in half moons
1/2 medium onion, sliced thinly
2 cabbage leaves, roughly chopped into pieces
1 slice of Korean fish cake,
1 packet Korean instant noodles (the seasoning is not needed)

5-6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp soy sauce
1 1/2 tbs sugar
2 1/2 tbs gochujang (adjust accordingly)
1 tsp gochugaru (optional)
2 1/2 cups lukewarm water

Prepare the vegetables (carrots, cabbage, onion) first by chopping them into roughly equal sizes.
If using frozen fish cake, submerge in hot water for few seconds to soften, remove and squeeze gently to remove excess water, chop into equal sizes as per above vegetables.
Rinse the rice cakes in cold water. Drain.
Prepare the sauce by combining everything (except water) in a big bowl. Mix to combine, it should become a thick paste. Gradually add in the water, stirring to dissolve the paste.
Add some olive oil to a pan and when the pan is hot, add in the onions. Stir-fry for a bit, then add in the carrots and cabbage and continue to stir-fry till vegetables have just slightly softened (about one to two minutes).
Pour the sauce over the vegetables (there should be enough liquid to cover the vegetables), if not, add in more water to cover the vegetables. Cook vegetables over med-high till vegetables are cooked, and the mixture has just started to boil. Add in the rice cakes and fish cake and stir to combine.
Simmer the mixture till the sauce has thickened slightly (mixture should still have liquid, if at any point of time the liquid seems to dry up, add more water - you'll add in additional seasonings again later).
When the rice cakes have softened (test with fork), taste the mixture. If you've add in quite a bit of water during the process, add additional seasonings (soy sauce, sugar, gochujang) until satisfied with the taste. Break the instant noodles into smaller pieces and add it into the pan. Cook for a few more minutes while stirring, to cook the noodles and to prevent the mixture from drying out.
Remove pan from the heat, drizzle and stir in some sesame oil. Transfer to plate, garnish with sesame seeds. Serve hot.


  1. hello vanessa, yeah it's the korean kind of instant noodles. (:

  2. hi, i'm from spore too! just wondering, what kind of noodles is ramyeon? is it like korean instant noodles?

  3. ahhhhh i've not tried rabokki coz like u said, double carbs lol but i did try dipping ramyeon in gochujang and its not bad haha, so i'll try this nx time. ME TOO LOR i loveeeeee anything chewy, like nian gao, and tapioca pearls! where do u normally buy yr ddeok anyway? solmart's so ex, $6.80. i usually get from that harinmart, only $3.80!

  4. haha i get my ddeok from the nearby supermart (nt sure what's it called) but it's def not as cheap as 3.80! lol.

  5. have not had korean rice cakes before..but they look yummy...


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