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We wanted to step back for a second and think about the transformation of tteokbokki over the past decade. While so much of Korean cooking got spicier and more extreme, the classic, all-day utility dish made of rice cakes, fish cakes, and fiery gochujang went . . . pink. Enter rose tteokbokki, a gentle, creamy version that has grown in popularity in Korea. Begin with frozen rice cakes. They’re better for this dish than fresh ones, which tend to break down easily and lose their shape. The key to adding flavor to the rice cakes is to simmer them gently in a light bath of salt and sugar in advance. Deuki spotted this technique at a market in Seoul and hasn’t looked back.                                                                                   

Another twist here is the addition of apple preserves or syrup. Layering in subtle sweetness is a good way to counter the heat of the chile paste. Some home cooks like to add ketchup, but the preference here is for apple, a more natural form of sweetness. The final step is the addition of cream, which gives the dish its namesake hue. Use as much or as little as you want, or skip the step fully if fire-engine red is your favorite shade for sautéed rice cakes


  • 3 cups cylinder-shaped rice cakes (garaeddeok)

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

    TST-Koreaworld Book Cover Koreaworld: A Cookbook Deuki Hong & Matt Rodbard
  • 5 tablespoons sugar

  • 6½ cups water

  • ¼ cup neutral cooking oil

  • ¼ cup thinly sliced scallions, white and green parts, plus more for garnish

  • 6 garlic cloves, minced

  • ¼ cup gochujang

  • ¼ cup diced fish cake

  • ¼ cup diced bacon or hot dog

  • ¼ cup shredded green cabbage

  • 2 tablespoons apple preserves or fruit syrup, homemade or store-bought

  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce

  • 1 teaspoon MSG (optional)

  • ½ cup heavy cream, or as needed

  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, for garnish

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the rice cakes, salt, 3 tablespoons of the sugar, and 4 cups of the water and bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Cook for about 20 minutes. Do not boil! This step adds flavor and improves the texture of the rice cakes. Drain the rice cakes and set aside.

  2. In a large skillet or wok, heat the oil over low heat. Add the scallions and garlic and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 5 minutes. This allows the flavors of the scallions and garlic to marry with the oil, providing a more aromatic flavor base.

  3. Add the gochujang and cook, stirring often, for 2 to 3 minutes more. This step cooks off the strong gochujang flavor and extracts its oils for additional spice.

  4. Add the reserved rice cakes, the fish cake, bacon, and cabbage, stir together well, and then fry in the fat, stirring occasionally, until light golden brown and caramelized, 2 to 3 minutes.

  5. Add the remaining 2½ cups water and 2 tablespoons sugar, the apple preserves, soy sauce, and MSG (if using), stir well, and simmer for 2 minutes to dissolve the sugar and blend the flavors.

  6. With the heat still on low, gradually add the cream, stopping when you achieve the shade of rose you desire. Serve immediately, garnished with sesame seeds and scallions.

Reprinted with permission from Koreaworld: A Cookbook by Deuki Hong & Matt Rodbard, copyright © 2024. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Photography credit: Alex Lau © 2024

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