떡볶이 in Hangul or Tteokbokki when Romanized, is a popular Korean snack food, sold by pojangmacha or street vendors while Odeng is skewered fish cake (borrowed from the japanese word oden, a japanese dish that sometimes contains kamaboko – which is the japanese term for fish cake.
I wanted to eat dukbokki. I first saw this food in a Korean drama. I was wondering what the tube shaped thingy covered in red (I assumed it was hot and spicy) sauce bought at food vendors on the street. I didn’t know what it was called back then. Then I started noticing that in every food vendor or pojangmacha, they sell this red stuff and it never goes missing. So fast forward to a couple of years later when Korean drama, fashion, song and every little Korean thing you can imagine has invaded the country, I finally found out what that red stuff was called with the help of Maangchi’s cooking video in Youtube. It was called Dukbokki and she even had the recipe for it. You can find the recipe here – http://www.maangchi.com/recipe/ddukbokkie) or if you are interested in authentic Korean recipes, check out Maangchi’s website: www.maangchi.com
The tube shaped thingies are rice cakes but what makes it flaming red is the hot pepper paste or gochujang. Now the recipe calls for rice cakes, gochujang, sugar, water, dried anchovies and green onions. Okay, I got all the ingredients in the pantry (yes, including the gochujang, which I had to scour the shelves of the grocery to make sure I got the right ingredient) except for the rice cake. There are very few Korean stores here and are really far from where I live and I’m not really sure if they have rice cakes available. I thought I could finally taste authentic dukbokki by cooking it myself but only got disappointed again because the main ingredient was missing.
Almost two years later after I gave up hope of eating dukbokki my husband discovered a food stall at a mall near his family home. The stall was named TOPOKKI and sells Dukbokki and Odeng. I know, maybe they spelled it as they hear it but it doesn’t matter if they spelled it wrong. I knew I just had to have a taste of that famous Korean snack.
My husband warned me that it was really spicy, I knew it was. I love spicy foods but still he warned me to prepare myself. He ordered one trial serving and two odeng for both of us. I was surprised to see that the dukbokki wasn’t all rice cakes, it had pieces of fish cake and thinly sliced carrots in it. I immediately took a bite at the rice cake that was swimming in red, hot sauce. Okay, first reaction – chewy, but not that tough, the sauce was flavorful at first, but then comes the hot, unique flavor of the gochujang. The chewiness of the rice cake and the hot, spicy flavor of the sauce makes dukbokki addictive – not to mention that I’m a big fan of Korean dramas, that eating dukbokki and odeng in a local mall made feel I’m in Korea already.
After my dukbokki experience, I decided to take a bite of odeng. It was served with hot soup and I guess this is something
for those who cannot stand really spicy foods. Like I said, it’s just basically boiled, skewered fish cake, simple as that. I know we shouldn’t be eating something as spicy as dukbokki and sipping the hot soup from the odeng because it was summer, but I don’t care. I just had to get my hands on the famous Korean snack – at least now, I no longer just imagine what it tastes like.
If you want to see the whole list of Korean street foods, you can check out simon and martina’s youtube channel EAT YOUR KIMCHI: http://www.youtube.com/user/simonandmartina#p/u/138/GzjajL1lOh0 Here they sample dukbokki, odeng and the other snack that’s sold in pojangmacha. You can’t say it’s not authentic because they are in Korea, it’s as real as it can get.