What Is Tteokbokki Similar To? Discover Korean Cuisine’s Spicy Rice Cake Dish

Among it’s various variations, one version known as Gungjung Tteokbokki, also referred to as royal court rice cakes, bears a striking resemblance to it’s Chinese counterpart, niangao. While both dishes boast the use of rice cakes as their base ingredient, Gungjung Tteokbokki showcases a distinct combination of savory and slightly sweet flavors, drawing inspiration from traditional Korean cuisine. Embarking on a culinary journey through the tantalizing world of tteokbokki reveals it’s unique characteristics and unveils a remarkable similarity to the Chinese culinary gem, niangao.

What Is the Origin of the Word Tteokbokki?

The origin of the word tteokbokki can be traced back to the Korean language itself. In Korean, tteok refers to rice cake, a staple in Korean cuisine. These rice cakes are made from glutinous rice flour and are often cooked or fried before consuming. On the other hand, bokki is derived from the verb bokkida, which means to fry or cook through frying.

Tteokbokki is a dish that’s been enjoyed for centuries in Korea. It was traditionally sold by street vendors from small carts known as pojangmacha, which means a tented street food stall. The vendors would serve tteokbokki as a quick and affordable snack option to passersby.

The dish itself consists of the rice cakes, which are the core ingredient, along with a spicy and savory sauce made from gochujang, a Korean chili paste, and various other ingredients like fish cakes, boiled eggs, and vegetables. The sauce gives tteokbokki it’s signature fiery red color and distinctive flavor.

It’s also commonly enjoyed as a main course in restaurants and is often served alongside other Korean dishes. The dish has undergone various adaptations and variations, with different regions in Korea adding their own unique twist to the recipe.

It’s widely enjoyed for it’s flavorful sauce, chewy rice cakes, and the satisfying combination of spice and sweetness.

Tteokbokki, a popular Korean street food, offers a delectable combination of flavors and textures. It’s sweet and spicy taste is complemented by a hint of savory goodness and a subtle garlic undertone. The chewy and tender texture adds to the overall indulgence, reminiscent of semi-soft cheese.

What Does a Tteokbokki Taste Like?

Tteokbokki, a popular Korean street food, is made primarily with rice cakes that are boiled until they become soft and chewy. The flavor of the rice cakes themselves is quite mild, allowing the sauce to take center stage. The sauce, made from a blend of gochujang (fermented chili paste), soy sauce, sugar, and other seasonings, is what gives Tteokbokki it’s distinctive taste.

The sweetness in Tteokbokki comes from the combination of sugar and the natural sweetness of gochujang. It isn’t overly sweet, but rather adds a pleasant hint of sweetness that balances the spicy kick. The spiciness, on the other hand, is derived from the gochujang, which provides a bold and fiery flavor. The level of spiciness varies depending on personal preference, but it typically leaves a tingle on the tongue.

The combination of soy sauce and gochujang provides a rich and savory profile that complements the sweetness and spiciness. Additionally, the garlic used in the sauce adds a subtle garlicky aftertaste, enhancing the overall flavor experience.

It’s a dish that delivers a punch of flavors, leaving taste buds craving for more.

Popular Side Dishes to Accompany Tteokbokki

  • Kimbap – A popular Korean dish made with seasoned rice and various fillings such as vegetables, meat, and seafood.
  • Odeng – Fish cakes that are boiled in a savory broth, they make a delicious and light side dish for tteokbokki.
  • Japchae – Stir-fried glass noodles mixed with vegetables, soy sauce, and sesame oil. It adds a bit of texture and flavor to the spice of tteokbokki.
  • Twigim – Assorted deep-fried snacks, such as vegetables, fish, and meat. They’re crispy and complement the softness of tteokbokki.
  • Kimchi – Fermented spicy cabbage that’s a staple in Korean cuisine. It adds a tangy and refreshing taste to balance the richness of tteokbokki.
  • Pajeon – A savory pancake made with scallions and various seafood or vegetables. It can be dipped in a soy-based sauce and enjoyed alongside tteokbokki.
  • Mandu – Korean dumplings that can be steamed, boiled, or fried. They make a great addition to tteokbokki, offering a different texture and flavor.
  • Bokkeumbap – Fried rice mixed with various ingredients like vegetables, meat, and sometimes kimchi. It’s a hearty side dish that pairs well with tteokbokki.
  • Gamja jeon – Potato pancakes made from grated potatoes and onions, seasoned with salt and pepper. They’re crispy and make a delicious accompaniment to tteokbokki.
  • Dubu kimchi – Soft tofu stewed with kimchi and other ingredients such as pork or mushrooms. It adds warmth and a complex flavor to tteokbokki.

Tteokbokki, a popular Korean dish, is traditionally known for it’s fiery spiciness. However, for those who prefer a milder taste, we’ve adjusted our recipe to decrease the level of heat. If desired, you can further reduce the spiciness by removing or reducing the amount of gochugaru chilli flakes and gochujang paste.

Is Tteokbokki Sweet or Spicy?

Tteokbokki, a popular Korean dish, is traditionally known for it’s fiery heat. The dish is typically prepared with a spicy sauce that brings a burst of flavor and a kick of spice. The gochugaru chilli flakes and gochujang paste are responsible for giving tteokbokki it’s characteristic spiciness. These ingredients are widely used in Korean cuisine to add a little fire to dishes.

However, if you find yourself craving tteokbokki but prefer a milder flavor profile, there are ways to adjust the spiciness to suit your taste buds. One option is to reduce or omit the gochugaru chilli flakes. These flakes are the primary source of heat in the dish, so by reducing their quantity or removing them altogether, you can significantly tone down the spiciness.

It’s important to note that even with these adjustments, tteokbokki will still have a bit of heat. It’s flavor profile is rooted in spiciness, and scaling down the heat too much might alter the true essence of the dish. It’s all about finding the right balance that suits your personal preferences.

If youre new to tteokbokki and want to give it a try but are wary of the spiciness, it’s recommended to order or prepare a mild version first. Once youve experienced the original heat, you can gradually adjust the recipe to your liking, experimenting with different ratios of gochugaru and gochujang.

Enjoy this classic Korean street food and savor the explosion of flavors it offers, whether it’s a spicy thrill or a more subdued delight.

Regional Variations of Tteokbokki: Tteokbokki May Vary in Taste and Presentation Depending on the Region in Korea. It Would Be Interesting to Highlight Some of the Regional Variations and How They Differ From the Traditional Tteokbokki.

  • In Busan, tteokbokki is often served with seafood such as shrimp or squid.
  • In Jeju Island, tteokbokki is known for it’s unique sweet and spicy sauce made with Jeju mandarin oranges.
  • In Gangneung, tteokbokki is traditionally made with smaller and thinner rice cakes.
  • In Gwangju, tteokbokki is cooked with a soy-based sauce and topped with sesame seeds.
  • In Andong, tteokbokki is made with slices of beef and a hearty soybean broth.
  • In Seoul, tteokbokki is often served in a rich and spicy sauce, garnished with green onions and boiled eggs.


Both dishes feature rice cakes as their primary ingredient, showcasing the versatility and cultural appreciation of this staple in Asian cuisine. While the niangao tends to have a sweeter and stickier texture, the Gungjung Tteokbokki offers a more savory and nuanced flavor profile, highlighting the rich culinary heritage of Korea's royal courts.

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