Tteokguk, also known as rice cake soup, is a flavorful and satisfying dish made with disc-shaped rice cakes in a clear broth. It holds a special place in Korean cuisine and is traditionally enjoyed on Seollal, the Korean New Year’s Day. This holiday marks a fresh start on the lunar calendar and signifies age increment. Consuming a bowl of tteokguk completes the celebration. While this recipe features beef broth, feel free to substitute it with your preferred meat or even seafood. Alternatively, you can opt for an anchovy stock or kelp stock.
Symbolism and Popularity
Rice cake soup is not limited to Seollal alone. Koreans now also cherish this dish on Western New Year’s day, January 1st. The soup’s white hue symbolizes a pure and renewed beginning for the upcoming year. Additionally, the round rice cakes resemble coins, signifying prosperity for those who partake in this delightful dish. Despite its symbolic significance, tteokguk is not just reserved for special occasions. Personally, I relish it frequently because it combines deliciousness and simplicity. It’s a complete meal in a bowl.
The Secret Lies in the Broth
The key to mastering this delectable soup lies in creating a clear and flavorsome broth, which requires a bit of attention and care. However, the overall recipe is quite straightforward. Rice cakes can be easily purchased from a Korean grocery store, or you can even try making them at home using my garaetteok recipe.
Let’s Get Cooking!
Why not make a resolution to try tteokguk on New Year’s Day and share your experience with me?
Ingredients (2-3 servings)
- 1 pound of store-bought sliced tteok rice cakes or homemade rice cakes (if frozen, soak them in cold water for 30 minutes and drain before using)
- 7 cups of water
- ½ pound of beef (flank steak or brisket), finely chopped
- 3 to 4 minced garlic cloves
- 1 dae-pa large green onion (or 3 green onions), thinly and diagonally sliced
- 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil
- 2 eggs
- 1 tablespoon of fish sauce (or adjust to taste using soup soy sauce)
- 1 teaspoon of toasted sesame oil
- ½ teaspoon of ground black pepper
- 1 sheet of dried seaweed paper (gim aka nori)
- 1 red pepper (optional), chopped
- In a large pot, bring the water to a boil over high heat. Add the beef and minced garlic, and cook for 5 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to medium, cover the pot, and let it simmer for 20 to 25 minutes until the beef becomes tender, infusing the water with its flavors.
- Meanwhile, roast a sheet of gim on both sides until it turns vibrant green and becomes crispy. Place it in a plastic bag and crush it by hand. Set it aside.
- Separate the yolks and whites of two eggs, placing them in separate bowls. Add a pinch of salt to each and mix well using a fork, removing any stringy parts from the yolks.
- Heat a non-stick pan and add the cooking oil. Swirl the oil around, covering the entire pan, and then use a kitchen towel to wipe off the excess oil, leaving a thin oily layer.
- Turn off the heat. Pour the egg yolk mixture into the pan, tilting it to ensure an even and thin spread. Allow it to cook on the hot pan for about 1 minute. Flip it over and let it sit for another minute. Remove it from the pan, slice it into thin strips, and set aside.
- Add the rice cake slices to the boiling soup, along with fish sauce and a pinch of salt. Stir with a ladle. Cover and let it cook for 7 to 8 minutes until all the rice cakes float and soften. Gradually pour in the egg whites, stirring continuously, and cook for 30 seconds.
- Add sesame oil, ground black pepper, and chopped green onion. Give the soup a good stir. Remove from heat and ladle the rice cake soup into individual serving bowls. Garnish with yellow egg strips, crushed seaweed, and chopped red pepper, if desired.
- Serve immediately, paired with kimchi and other side dishes if you like. Remember, the rice cakes may become soggy if left for too long, so it’s best to dig in and enjoy right away.
Celebrate the dawn of a new year with a hearty bowl of tteokguk. This traditional Korean delicacy not only satisfies your taste buds but also resonates with cultural significance. Experience the joy of cooking by preparing this delicious soup and enjoy a wholesome meal that will leave you longing for more.