What is tteokguk?
Tteokguk (dduk guk, 떡국) is a delicious Korean rice cake soup. The tender, chewy rice cake noodles are cooked in a savoury beef brisket broth. The soup is topped with various garnishes, including the tender, sesame-seasoned beef brisket that was cooked in the broth. This Korean dish is a classic and popular dish to enjoy for New Years because the rice cakes are considered to be auspicious.
Rice cakes / tteok / dduk (떡) – These tender and chewy noodles are usually made from steamed glutinous rice flour and a bit of regular rice flour. The pillowy noodles are flavourless on their own, but readily soak up the flavour of the soup or sauce they are prepared in. You can buy the rice cakes refrigerated and fresh, frozen, or dried. The frozen ones need to be soaked in cold water for an hour before cooking. The dried ones should soak for at least three hours to overnight.
- beef brisket, fat removed
- vegetables: onion, garlic, scallion (white part)
- Korean soup soy sauce / guk-ganjang (국간장) – This is a type of Korean soy sauce composed of fermented soy beans and brine. It is saltier and richer than regular soy sauce, and lighter in colour, which is great for seasoning soup while maintaining clarity. If you can’t get Korean soup soy sauce, do not substitute with regular soy sauce in soups. The best substitute would be fish sauce.
- salt & pepper
- shredded brisket, from the beef broth, seasoned with sesame oil, garlic, salt & pepper
- egg garnish / jidan (지단) – This is a sliced, fried egg garnish. This garnish is quite easy to make and the instructions are below. An alternative is to simply drizzle a lightly beaten egg into the boiling soup right before turning off the heat (do not stir). Or, you can omit the egg entirely.
- scallion (green part)
- Korean roasted seaweed / gim (김) – You can substitute for this with nori (Japanese sushi seaweed) if needed.
How to make Korean rice cake soup (tteokguk)
Soaking the rice cakes
Begin by soaking the rice cakes in a bowl of cold water. If you are using the frozen variety, they need to soak for an hour, so they will be ready when the beef broth has finished cooking. If you are using dried ones, they need to soak for at least three hours to overnight.
Making the beef broth
Trim your beef brisket well. You just want the lean brisket – no pieces of fat.
Prepare the vegetables that you will be adding in with the beef brisket to make the broth. Quarter the onion, trim the scallion stalks down to the whites (save the green tops for later), and peel and roughly slice some garlic cloves.
Add the beef and vegetables into a large pot with twelve cups (2.84L) water. The holding capacity of the pot should be at least five litres and it will need a lid. I used a five litre dutch oven and there was just room enough.
Bring the soup pot to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and skim any scum that has risen to the surface. Cover the pot and continue cooking for an hour and a half. Keep an eye on the pot to ensure that it doesn’t boil over and make a mess. If you see it beginning to bubble up, simply lift the lid momentarily for the bubbles to settle down.
Once the cooking time has passed, turn off the heat and remove the brisket from the pot. Set it aside for ten minutes to cool. Letting meat rest after cooking is important as it will affect the tenderness of the meat.
Discard the vegetables and strain the broth through cheese cloth into a large bowl. Wipe the pot clean before returning the broth to it. (This straining of the broth and wiping the pot is an optional step, but will make the broth look nicer so I recommend doing it.)
Season the broth to taste with Korean soup soy sauce, salt, and pepper. You can have the soup be as mild or as punchy in flavour as you’d like. I ended up adding about two tablespoons of soup soy sauce. Cover the pot until you are ready to use the broth a bit later.
Preparing the toppings
Once the beef brisket has rested, it’s time to prepare it as a topping. Your brisket is likely one long piece of meat. Cut it into long strips against the grain (about 1-1 1/2 inches or 2.5-4cm in width). This meant simply slicing mine in half lengthwise. Then use a fork or your fingers to easily shred the tender meat.
Place the shredded meat into a bowl and season it with sesame oil, minced garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Make sure to mix well so that all of the meat gets seasoned.
How to make egg topping (jidan)
Jidan is a lovely topping used for Korean rice cake soup. It is made of thin slices of fried egg yolk and egg white. This topping is optional, however, it’s easy to make and makes a nice, colourful addition to the dish, so I recommend that you try it.
Start by separating the egg yolk from the egg white. Use a spoon to break the egg yolk up until it is all liquid. Use another spoon to stir the egg white so it is well blended.
Heat a touch of olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-low heat. Pour the egg yolk into the centre, then use the spoon to spread it into one flat, even layer. Cook it briefly so that the bottom side is set but doesn’t have time to brown, then gently flip it over and briefly cook the other side as well. Set the cooked yolk aside on a cutting board, and repeat the process with the egg white.
Once the egg have cooled enough to touch, roll them into an omelette and use a sharpe knife to thinly slice them into strips.
Prepare your remaining toppings by thinly slicing the scallion greens into thin slices on a diagonal, and cut the gim (seaweed) into thin strips as well. If the seaweed you bought didn’t come already roasted, you can quickly roast it in a skillet.
Cooking the rice cakes
The soaked rice cakes will cook quite quickly, so I like to have the toppings prepared and everything ready before I start them. Return the beef broth to a boil. Drain the soaking rice cakes and add them into the pot. Boil them until they are tender, about five minutes. Remove from the heat and serve immediately.
How to serve Korean rice cake soup
Ladle the rice cake soup into individual serving bowls, then top with your various prepared toppings. This soup is a great interactive dish where everyone can garnish as they please. I, for one, like to take an extra serving of that delicious, sesame-seasoned, tender beef brisket for mine. 😏
Once added to the broth, the rice cakes will not keep long as they will become mushy. If you have any remaining in the soup, remove and discard the rice cakes before storing the broth. You can cook new rice cakes in the broth later if desired. Store the beef broth in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
The original version of this soup actually used a pheasant broth. In modern times, this beef broth version is the standard, and is known as the Seoul-style. However, you can find different households using chicken, vegetable, or anchovy broths. This soup also varies geographically within Korea. For example, coastal regions along the Korean Straight often add oysters, and in the north-eastern province of Gangwon a variation with added dumplings (mandu 만두) called tteok-manduguk (떡만두국) is popular.
Do you love rice cakes as much as I do?
Then I think you will also love Shanghai savoury stir fried rice cakes. The tender rice cakes are cooked in a savoury chicken stir fry in this dish that is popular and considered auspicious to enjoy during the Chinese New Year. Umami mushrooms and succulent, tender chicken are highlights in this stir fry.Print
Tender rice cakes cooked in a savoury beef and vegetable broth, and topped with succulent beef brisket. This auspicious Korean New Year’s dish is simply delicious and can be enjoyed year round.
1 lb (454 g) Korean rice cakes *
1/2 lb (227 g) beef brisket, fat trimmed and removed
1 small onion, peeled and quartered
4 cloves garlic, sliced thick
2 stalks scallion (white parts)
12 cups (2.84 L) water
1–2 tbsp Korean soup soy sauce **
salt and pepper, to taste
beef brisket, from broth
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp sesame oil
salt and pepper, to taste
1 large egg
1 scallion (green part)
Korean gim (seaweed) ***
Soak the frozen rice cakes in a bowl of cold water.*
Add the beef brisket, onion, garlic, scallions (white parts), and water into a large pot. The pot should have a capacity of at least 5L and have a lid. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Remove any scum from the surface. Cover the pot and cook for 1.5 hours. Keep an eye to make sure it doesn’t boil over.
Turn off the heat. Remove the brisket from the pot and let it rest for 10 minutes. Discard the vegetables and strain the broth through cheese cloth into a large bowl (the straining is optional but will make a more attractive broth). Wipe the pot clean before returning the broth to it. Season the broth with Korean soup soy sauce, salt, and pepper to taste. Cover the pot for now.
Beef brisket topping:
Cut the brisket against the grain into long strips, about 1 – 1.5″ or 2.5-4cm in width. For me this just meant cutting my brisket in half lengthwise. Use a fork or your fingers to shred the tender meat. Put the shredded meat into a bowl, season with sesame oil, minced garlic, salt and pepper to taste, and mix well.
Egg garnish (jidan):
Separate an egg yolk from the white and put in two separate small bowls. Use a spoon to break the yolk up into a liquid. Use another spoon to lightly stir the egg white until it is blended.
Heat a lightly olive oiled pan over medium-low heat. Pour the yolk into the pan and use spoon to spread it into a thin, even layer. Cook briefly so that bottom side sets but doesn’t have time to brown. Gently flip it over and briefly cook the other side as well. Transfer to a cutting board and repeat process with the egg white.
Roll the egg yolk and egg white into two omelettes and slice them into thin strips.
Thinly slice the scallion greens on a diagonal, and cut the roasted seaweed into thin strips. If the seaweed isn’t already roasted, you can quickly do so in a skillet.
Return the beef broth to a boil. Drain the soaking rice cakes and add them to the boiling beed broth. Boil until tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and serve immediately.
Ladle the beef broth and rice cakes into serving bowls. Set out the toppings in individual plates to allow for garnishing as you please.
* Korean rice cakes can be bought refrigerated and fresh, frozen, or dried. The frozen ones need to be soaked in cold water for an hour before cooking. The dried ones should soak for at least three hours to overnight. To soak, simply place them in a bowl of cold water and check in about thirty minutes to make sure that they are not sticking together.
** Korean soup soy sauce is composed of fermented soy beans and brine. It is saltier and richer than regular soy sauce, and lighter in colour, which is great for seasoning soup while maintaining clarity. If you can’t get Korean soup soy sauce, do not substitute with regular soy sauce in soups. The best substitute would be fish sauce.
*** You can substitute for gim with Japanese sushi seaweed if needed, or omit it from this recipe.
How to store the leftovers:
The cooked rice cakes in the broth will not keep well as they will become mushy. Remove any remaining rice cakes from the broth before storing the broth for later use. You can cook new rice cakes in the broth later if desired. Store beef broth in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Keywords: Korean rice cake soup, tteokguk, dduk guk