Every New Year’s day, Koreans make Dduk Guk/Tteok Guk (떡국) and share it with their family and guests who visit their homes. During the New Year holiday, many Koreans travel back to their hometown. They visit their parents and elderly relatives to pay their respects by bowing (Saebae 세배) to them, wishing them health and good fortune. Children receive blessings and words of wisdom from the elders, as well as monetary gifts called Saebaedon (세배돈). This was my favorite time of the year because it meant that if I did good, I would have enough money to buy myself goodies throughout the whole year! (or at least until my birthday in summer.. ) Oh, but there was something that I did not like – we all had to wear traditional Korean clothes (Hanbok 한복) all day and they were pretty but quite uncomfortable. The traditional way to wear hanbok is to wrap the skirt around your chest and tie it very, very tight. I mean really tight.. so tight I thought I was going to die because I couldn’t breathe!
No one knows for sure exactly why Tteok Guk/Dduk Guk became a traditional Korean food to eat at home on New Year’s day. There are two theories: one theory is that because rice was harvested in the fall and in the old days there were no means of storing it long-term, making rice cake was a way of using up old rice; another theory (based on customary beliefs) has to do with yin and yang and that New Year’s day represents the yang (positive) energy and also so does the rice cake. Don’t ask me why exactly rice cake represents yang energy…
Long time ago, the stock for the rice cake soup was made from pheasant meat. In more modern times, beef stock has become the standard. You can also use anchovy stock or chicken stock. Anchovy stock is not as rich tasting as beef stock but it is easier, quicker and has a cleaner taste. It is also lower in calories, so I like using anchovy stock for everyday dduk gook.
OK enough talk.. let’s start cooking!
Prep Time: 10 min. Cooking Time: 35 min. Servings: 4
Ingredients for anchovy stock Dduk Guk/Tteok Guk
- 1 lb rice cake slices/ovalettes for soup (떡국떡 Tteok guk tteok)
- 8 C anchovy stock (see my tips page for making anchovy stock)
- 2 green onions
- 1/2 sliced onion (optional)
- 1 julienned carrot (optional)
- 1 T chopped garlic
- 1 T gook kanjang (국간장)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- black pepper
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp oil for frying
- 1/2 lb beef stew meat/brisket or ground beef (optional)
- seasoning for the beef:
- 4 tsp soy sauce (Kikkoman)
- 4 tsp sugar
- 1 T rice cooking wine
- 1 T sesame oil
- 1 T minced garlic
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1. Prepare the anchovy stock. Read My Tips page on how to make anchovy stock.
2. Rinse and soak rice cake in cold water (especially if the rice cake is frozen) for 5 to 10 minutes.
2. The traditional and more formal way is to prepare garnishes with eggs and meat.You can skip the garnish if you want to. But if you are using anchovy stock, I would recommend that you at least make the meat garnish because it adds a lot more flavor to the soup.
First, let’s prepare the egg. This way, you can reuse the frying pan to cook the beef after you cook the eggs. Whip 2 eggs in a bowl and season with some salt and pepper. Drizzle some canola oil in a non-stick frying pan and heat on medium high heat. Pour the egg into the pan and immediately lift the pan off the heat. Swirl the egg around the pan to spread it evenly to make a thin crepe like pancake. Put the pan back onto the heat, lower the heat to medium and when the egg is almost cooked like the picture below, turn it over.
When the egg is all cooked, take it out of the pan and let it cool on your cutting board. When it is cool enough to handle, fold it into overlapping thirds (tri-fold). This way, you can cut the strips more uniformly.
Let’s prepare the beef. If you are working with a piece of brisket or stew meat, slice the meat into thin strips and season it with soy sauce, sugar, mirin, garlic, pepper and sesame oil. Mix it well.
You can also use ground beef instead – this will save you the extra work of slicing the beef. Cook the beef in a frying pan on medium high heat until fully cooked. No need to add any extra oil.
3. Heat the anchovy stock in a pot over medium high heat. Season the soup by adding salt, gook kanjang and chopped garlic. You can also add sliced onions and carrots to the soup to add some color and additional nutrients. Bring to a boil.
4. Drain the rice cake slices and add to the boiling soup. Cover the pot and cook for few minutes. When the rice cakes float to the top, they are now cooked and ready to eat. Turn off the heat, sprinkle some black pepper and add sliced green onions.
5. Taste the soup and adjust seasoning if needed. Add more salt if needed. Ladle the rice cake soup into a bowl and garnish with some beef and egg prepared above. Sprinkle some sesame seeds if you’d like and there you go!
Serve with some kimchi, mandoo(dumplings) and hobahk jeon and you have a great comforting meal. Enjoy!
– What is Korean Dduk/Tteok? The word “Dduk or Tteok” (떡) refers to a general class of Korean rice cakes that is made by mixing rice flour (can be either sweet or plain rice) with water and steaming them. Various ingredients such as mugwort (쑥 suk), pumpkin (호박 hobahk) and red bean (팥paht) can be added to it. They are called suk dduk (쑥떡), hobahk dduk(호박떡) and paht dduk(팥떡), respectively. You can see how the naming works. The rice cakes used for rice cake soup start out as garaedduk/garaetteok (가래떡) which are shaped like logs and then are cut into slices as shown in the picture. This type of dduk is called 떡꾹떡(dduk guk dduk) meaning “rice cake made for soup”.
– How to store dduk gook dduk (rice cake ovalettes for soup): Dduk gook dduk will usually start to mold after few days in the refrigerator so keep any leftover uncooked rice cake ovalettes in the freezer and they will keep for months. Thawing rice cake is quick and easy (just soak it in cold water for few minutes) and freezing it also does not affect the taste- so no worries!
– How to store leftover dduk gook/tteok gook: Unfortunately leftover dduk guk turns into one giant glob of rice paste. The rice cake will start to get very mushy and the soup will become very thick. Some people actually enjoy this but I don’t. So it’s best not to have any leftovers and if you do, drain the soup so you can keep the rice cakes and the soup separate.