There’s a lot of ways to spell this dish in English — and all of them are awkward — but no matter how you spell it, the eating is good! This is one of the first Korean dishes I ever tried, and I immediately fell in love. The dish itself is a really simple stir fry that showcases the most fundamental, amazing Korean flavor combinations: garlic, red pepper, sesame, and a little sweetened soy sauce.
To help break down the awkwardly spelled name (not surprisingly, the Korean alphabet is just so much better at spelling out Korean food words…), let’s begin with the star of this show: dduk. “Dduk” are Korean rice cakes, but as this post points out, that term really doesn’t describe anything about dduk — the chewy, pillowy texture, their use in savory dishes, the sense of satisfaction you get from biting into a hot, flavorful piece of dduk, etc. Dduk is just comfort food to me — and it will be for you, too, if you try it! The post I referenced above say they are equivalent to a Korean version of the Italian gnocci; a good American equivalent might be dumplings. You know, the kind of dumplings your great aunt puts in chicken n dumplings, or that your brother orders at the Cracker Barrel (“Yes, I’ll have chicken n dumplings, with a side of chicken n dumplings, and another side of chicken n dumplings”).
Maybe that’s just my family, though.
Speaking of my family, that’s where this recipe comes from — my sister-in-law, the first (and yet, not the last) source of all things good and Korean in my life. I requested she make this a lot when I used to live with her and my brother, and she recently passed on the recipe, which she had conveniently already worked up to make it totally clear to non-Koreans.
In terms of actually locating and purchasing dduk, I really think it will be at any Asian market you visit. Dduk comes in many shapes, but you can buy whatever shape you can find — long cylinders, short cylinders, discs, etc. — and if you need to, you can cut them to a bite-sized length after they boil. You’d probably have the best luck in a Korean grocery, but Chinese would do as well, and I wouldn’t say no to trying a Japanese market. Head to the freezer section; somewhere in the midst of all those frozen dumplings, you should find clear, plastic, occasionally shrink-wrapped packages of frozen dduk goodness. When I buy my next pack, I’ll take a picture of it so you can see.
Incidentally, it’s traditional for Korean (and Chinese?) people to eat dduk to celebrate the New Year, which is right around the corner! Dduk gook (soup) is actually what is traditional, but I like to feel this is close enough :-) Give it a try — and let me know how it goes!
Ddukbokki — serves four
- 1 lb. dduk
- 2 tablespoons neutral cooking oil (peanut, canola, veggie, etc.)
- 1/3 lb. beef or chicken, cut into thin strips
- 1 small onion, sliced
- 1 small carrot, julienned
- 1 tablespoons brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 3 green onions (cut into 2” long pieces)
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 1 1/2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
- 1 1/2 tablespoons gochoojang (Korean red pepper paste, available in Asian groceries). Add this carefully and to taste, since it can be really spicy!
In a large saucepan, bring water (around a liter and a half) to a boil. Add the rice cake. Boil for 2 minutes, then drain and rinse them in cold water (in a colander, like pasta), and cut into 3” lengths (if necessary), set aside.
Heat cooking oil in a large skillet or wok over medium heat. When oil is hot, stir-fry beef or chicken until done. Add carrot strips & onion, stir-fry until tender. Turn heat down a bit, then add the dduk and cook for a minute.
Add the soy sauce, sesame seeds, sugar, garlic, and gochoojang. Stir to combine. Add green onions, sesame oil, and toasted sesame seeds.
If you’re still interested, I found another ddukbokki post here, which points out how quick and easy this totally satisfying dish is to make!