Momofuku Week ends with this recipe for Roasted Rice Cakes, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be posting more recipes from the book very soon.
I had little interest in Korean food until a few years ago. My experience had been limited to the plethora of grilled meats that most people associate with Korean cuisine, and other standards like bibimbap, soondubu, and even banchan were never on my radar. It wasn’t until I ordered the roasted rice cakes at Momofuku Noodle Bar in 2007 that I started get more interested in non-barbecued Korean dishes.
I remember ordering the roasted rice cakes as an appetizer without having any idea what it was. When they arrived at the table, I marveled at the bright red sauce that coated the crunchy-yet-chewy rice cakes. My friend Soo Jin told me that this dish was called dok boki (dok means rice cake), and it soon became a regular order when I was at Korean restaurants.
Momofuku’s roasted rice cakes deviate from traditional dok boki by pan roasting the rice cakes instead of boiling them so that they’re crispy on the outside but still chewy on the inside. According to David Chang, pan roasting is something he only saw in Japan, and to me, the texture contrasts make the dish a lot more delectable.
In the book, Chang says:
“I equate the difference between boiled dok and grilled, griddled or fried rice cakes to the difference between boiled and grilled hot dogs. Each has its place, but that char, that extra bit of flavor and texture you get from the direct heat does a lot for the dok, just as it does for hot dogs.”
Like hot dog carts in New York, dok boki vendors are ubiquitous in Seoul, and this recipe is Chang’s interpretation of classic Korean street food. It features pan-roasted rice cakes tossed in Korean Red Dragon Sauce (recipe below) and garnished with green onions and sesame seeds. The Red Dragon sauce includes roasted onions, which I overcooked slightly but still added a nice smoky flavor. I was able to pick up fresh rice cakes and other ingredients from a great little Korean market near my house.
Roasted Rice Cakes
Note: The recipe calls for ramen broth, but I didn’t have any on hand so I substituted it with bacon dashi. They’re two totally different things, but the end result was still really good.
¼ cup mirin
¼ cup bacon dashi
½ cup Korean Red Dragon Sauce
¼ cup of roasted onions
2 tablespoons canola oil
12 rice cakes (about 3-inch-long pieces.)
1 tablespoon sesame seeds (for garnish)
½ cup sliced green onions (greens and whites, for garnish)
Combine mirin and bacon dashi in a saucepan big enough to hold the rice cakes later. Boil to reduce until lightly thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the Korean Red Dragon Sauce, turn the heat down to medium and reduce the sauce to a glossy consistency, 6 to 7 minutes. Stir in the roasted onions. Cover and keep warm until rice cakes are ready.
While the sauce is reducing, heat a very clean cast-iron skillet over medium heat until hot. Add the oil to the pan and when it just starts to smoke, add the rice cakes. Sear the rice cakes for about 3 minutes per side until they’re light golden brown.
Bring the sauce back up to a a boil and toss the rice cakes in for a few seconds until they’re evenly coated. Add sesame seeds and toss again. Transfer to a serving platter and garnish with green onions.
Korean Red Dragon Sauce
½ cup water
½ cup sugar
¾ cup ssamjang (fermented bean and chile paste)
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
(or mix ½ teaspoon rice vinegar and ½ teaspoon sherry wine)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Bring water and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and let cool for a few minutes, then stir in the ssamjang to dissolve it. Stir in the soy sauce, vinegar, and sesame oil. Taste the sauce; no one flavor should stand out, but all should be present and accounted for. Adjust as necessary.