Many Koreans prepare and eat “dduk gook,” (also spelled ddukguk, tteok guk, or tteok gook) or rice cake soup, on Lunar New Year–in fact, I have been trying to post about Korean dduk gook since the past Lunar Year, a number of months ago. I had a Lunar New Year graphic and everything. But alas, for various reasons, I never got around to the post.
And now it’s October. The brown leaves are falling and hitting the ground not with a chlorophyll heavy thud but a high pitched scrape. When the wind blows, it is accompanied by a crinkling sound that resembles crumpled tissue paper. The air has a slight chill to it, the sun a weak and beautiful golden glow. Even when daytime temperatures struggle into the 70s or upper 60s, nighttime temperatures drop. And while the Lunar New Year might be the holiday platform for this soup, I say Fall is another excellent setting.
Who could say no to this soup? The smooth, yet chewy rice cakes, the rich and mild broth? As a child, I loved the oval rice cakes in this soup, used to feel sad to chew and destroy their perfect shapes and texture, so perfect did they feel in my mouth. The consistency of the rice cakes is something the cook can control–simmer them longer for ovalettes that are soft and near disintegration or cook them for fifteen minutes for firm rice cakes that will take some chewing. I myself like the cakes very soft, and the broth milky.
In the “olden days,” rice cakes were made by hand, making this soup labor intensive and one reserved for a festive holiday like the New Year. A cook would form a cylinder, and then slice them cross wise at an angle, into ovalettes. But nowadays, they’re readily available at the Korean grocery store, whether they’re handmade by your purveyor, or factory produced. Above is a bag I picked up from the store (Koreana Plaza on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland, if you must ask).
You can freeze the bag and use the rice cakes in batches, or you can freeze them upfront knowing that this soup is in your future. Eventually, they’ll find their way to the first step of making this soup: a nice water bath.
Before you start making the soup, dunk the rice cakes into a bowl of water, let them sit and rest and soften for thirty minutes.
Given that the rice cakes are traditionally the most difficult step to take in making this soup, rest assured that the soup itself is quite simple to make. There are variations on what kind of beef to use, what kind of broth to use and such, but the steps are quite straightforward. Just combine and boil!
I like to use a short rib for the meat, simply because the bone and the beef lend a richness to the soup. Also, I like to use plain water instead of broth. And I like to add some sea kelp (miyuk) to the soup, while others only ask for toasted seaweed (gim, or wakame seaweed used for sushi).
I posted this recipe before on my old blog, but I took it down, so I thought I’d share again. Enjoy.
A side note: I am a huge fan of soup–whether this is because my father insisted on a bowl of soup with every meal, or because the soups themselves are so satisfying, or because my mother liked to make me lots of soup so that I wouldn’t eat too much of the “fattening stuff,” soup has become a great source of comfort to me. It is ingrained in my culinary memory. Here are some other Korean soups I love, posted on Muffin Top:
- Korean trashy soup
- or North Korean Chicken soup
- or absolutely fabulous Sullung-tang, a Korean knucklebone soup
- Korean sam gye tang, chicken and ginseng soup
Recipe follows after the jump…
RECIPE for DDUK GOOK (Korean rice cake soup)
1-3 pieces of short rib beef (or other chunks of stew beef)
2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
6-8 cups of water (or broth)
2 pounds of rice cakes
1 bunch sliced scallions
toasted seaweed crumbled (optional)
dried seaweed kelp strip (optional)
salt to taste
black pepper to taste
In a bowl, soak the rice cake rounds in cold water for 30 minutes to soften the rice cake.
Meanwhile, in a stockpot or dutch oven, heat the oil until hot. Add garlic and beef and saute for 2-5 minutes until fragrant and the meat is seared.
Add water or stock to the meat and garlic and bring the soup to a vigorous boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium-high, add half the green onion pieces and kelp and boil for 10 minutes.
Add the rice cake rounds and cook for 10-15 minutes, until the rice cakes are soft and chewy or to desired consistency. While the soup is boiling, break in the eggs, mix them until they’re broken up and simmer until they’re done.
Season with the rest of the minced green onions/scallions, black pepper, salt (you won’t need much salt if you’re using broth instead of water), and toasted seaweed if available.
Serve with kimchi! Enjoy.