Rabokki (Ramen + Tteokbokki)
I was in a bad blogging mood last week– not that I let it show on the blog itself… Paula just had to put up with some grumpiness (the usual) and my reluctance to be in the kitchen (unusual).
The bad mood was due to all sorts of things, including this article from Buzzfeed that I shared on my blog’s Facebook page, which perfectly sums up all of the things I don’t like about food blogging (emphasis on photos-over-recipes, aggregator sites, networking, social media, etc.).
It didn’t help that I was tackling a very frustrating strawberry cream cheese cookie recipe, for which apparently the third time is not yet the charm. (<== More evidence that
cooking is better than baking I am still not a baker: I’m not even advanced enough to make up my own cookie recipe.)
Rabokki rescued me. A scrumptious Korean masterpiece of chewy tteok (rice cakes) and ramyeon (ramen noodles) in an addictively rich chili sauce, ra-bokki is the perfect blend of ra-myeon + spicy tteok-bokki.
I’d be lying if I said that this week I didn’t eat this for dinner Sunday, lunch Monday, dinner Tuesday, and lunch Wednesday. Yes, I made it twice in a week! (This probably ties for amount of rabokki eaten with any week I’ve ever spent in Seoul.)
Though rabokki is often grouped together with Korean street food, I think of tteokbokki (spicy stir-fried rice cakes in chili sauce) as the real street food, while rabokki is more like hole-in-the-wall restaurant food.
In many casual lunch spots in Seoul, you can get a huge plate of this stuff for the equivalent of about 3 U.S. dollars, which goes a long way toward making up for the ambiance of white laminate tables, self-serve water glasses stacked in UV sterilizers, plastic fans whirling, and televisions—fastened precariously to the walls—showing non-stop soap-opera-like Korean dramas.
Realizing I could make rabokki at home was something of a revelation.
For one thing, this means I could be making tteokbokki at home, too! But really, what isn’t improved by ramen noodles!? (Don’t answer that.)
It was also nostalgically delicious, deliciously nostalgic, and extremely easy to make.
My bad blogging mood made me stop and think about my priorities and how much pressure I was putting on myself just for a somewhat-serious hobby. I know next to nothing about photography, so taking food photos can be stressful for me, but cooking is the enjoyable and relaxing part. So when I got back in the kitchen, I was determined to make it about recipe first, photos second.
I took that self-directive literally and took no photos the first time I made rabokki; only the second. I always try to test out recipes at least twice for the blog, but I often take photos the first time I make something, then make it again to perfect the recipe later. Never again! It was so much nicer this way, jotting down recipe notes without worrying about snapping photos, then– the second time– vice versa.
(If only I had come to this realization before trying to make up that strawberry cream cheese cookie recipe, I would have been far less frustrated with the amount of wasted time…)
I also found a way to make the rabokki sauce extra tasty and umami-ful despite discarding the chemically ramen seasoning packet: make it with dashi! (Japanese kelp and/or fish stock.)
The first time I tried this it was both a little too salty and too fishy tasting, so the second time I brewed up a weaker dashi* and skipped the soy sauce: success!
Chewy, comforting, warm, spicy, rice cake success. I will be adding this to my regular weeknight rotation (along with Korean bulgogi chicken, among other things).
My homemade rabokki version might not be as crazy cheap as in the lunch shops in Korea, but it’s homemade, so it’s even more satisfying.
* I used a dashi-no-moto packet, which is kind of like a tea bag for making instant dashi. You can find these in most Asian markets, but you might want to be picky about the ingredients, since many brands have MSG (not a problem for me), which helps give it that nice umami flavor. You may also be able to find vegetarian dashi packets, made with kombu (kelp) or mushrooms. (Or make your own kombu-mushroom vegetarian dashi!)
Print this recipe. (PDF)
(Adapted from Aeri’s Kitchen.)
~ 12-14 oz. tteok (Korean cylindrical rice cakes; about 20)
~ 3 cups weak dashi (made from dashi-no-moto packets– like a dashi tea bag; see below)
~ 2-3 eggs (1 per person)
~ ½ cup water
~ 3½ Tbsp. kochujang (Korean chili paste)
~ 1-2 tsp. kochukaru (Korean chili powder; optional, for extra spice)
~ 2 cloves garlic, minced
~ 2 tsp. sugar
~ ½ onion, sliced
~ 2-3 sheets oemuk/omuk (Korean fish cakes), sliced
~ 1 brick ramen noodles, flavor packet discarded
~ 3-4 scallions, chopped
How to make it:
1. Soak the tteok rice cakes in a bowl of cold water for 10-30 minutes, while you prepare the other ingredients. Hard-boil the eggs by bringing them to a boil in a small pot of cold water: allow to boil for 1 minute, then cover, remove from heat, and allow to sit for 8-9 minutes. Rinse eggs in cold water to stop them from cooking, then peel the eggs.
2. Prepare a weak dashi with a dashi-no-moto packet by bringing 3 cups of water to a boil, adding the packet, then reducing the heat, covering, and simmering for only 5 minutes (instead of 10 minutes, as the packets instruct). Discard the flavor packet and set aside.
3. In a large, deep pan, combine the weak dashi with the ½ cup water, kochujang, kochukaru (optional), garlic, and sugar. Heat over medium-high, stirring until the kochujang dissolves.
4. Add the onions, fish cakes, and rice cakes (just shake the water off of them first), and bring to a simmer (uncovered) for 5-7 minutes, or until the onions are nearly cooked.
5. Add the brick of ramen noodles and flip it several times until the noodles start to soften. Use chopsticks to gently loosen the noodles. Once loosened, add the hard-boiled eggs and scallions. Simmer until the noodles are cooked, adding up to ½ cup of additional water if necessary. Serve immediately, garnishing with additional scallions if desired.
(Re-heat any leftovers slowly on the stove– not in the microwave– with a little extra water.)
Print this recipe! (PDF)
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