Ever since I can remember, I have always loved rice cakes. They can be sweet or savory, put into soups, stir-fry’s, served as desserts or simply dipped in soy sauce – I would eat them in any shape or form. One of the main reasons that I want to visit Korea is to try fresh rice cakes…aside from visiting the tourist spots, of course. If I don’t have my rice cake every couple of months, I will crave it every day until I do, and mind you, I am not a pleasant person to be around until I get my fix! It was around that time again when I felt those cravings creeping in, so I decided to make the ultimate Korean street food, rabboki. This dish is a spin on ddukboki, mixing spicy rice cakes with ramen! Add some spam and you have comfort food at its best. You’ll want to make a big batch of this dish, trust me!
- 6 tbsp water
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 3 tbsp mirin
- 1 tbsp rice syrup
- 1 1/2 tbsp chili paste (gochujang)
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp black bean paste
- 1 lb rice cakes
- 4 ounces fresh ramen noodles
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1/2 can spam, sliced and cut into triangles
- 1/2 onion, sliced
- 3 carrots, sliced on a bias
- Combine ingredients for the sauce from water - black bean paste in a small sauce pot. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat. Set aside.
- If using frozen rice cakes, soak in room temperature water for 30 minutes. Drain.
- Cook ramen noodles in boiling water until al dente. Drain and shock in ice water. Drain.
- Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large saute pan. Add sliced spam and sear on both sides. Remove from pan and set aside.
- In the same pan, add onions and carrots. Saute until onion has softened, about 3 minutes. Add the spam, rice cakes and ramen to the pan. Pour sauce into mixture and stir until everything is well coated. Cover and let simmer for 5 minutes or until rice cakes have softened. Remove cover, sprinkle sesame seeds on top and serve.
**Helpful tips and common mistakes
Rice cakes are the comfort food of Korean cuisine, and rightly so. They are dense, chewy, sweet and spicy. They are great as a last night snack, mid-afternoon, dinner, lunch, pretty much any time of the day. Ask any Korean on the street about rice cakes, and they will be able to share their nostalgic memories of their mother preparing this dish.
When purchasing rice cakes, they are often sold fresh or frozen. Frozen rice cakes needs to be soaked in water for 30 minutes before cooking, to soften the dough. Use the fresh rice cakes immediately before it begins to dry and harden.
You may come across different rice cakes shapes as well, long cylindrical rice cakes and ovalettes. Most often, the ovalettes are used for soups while the cylindrical shapes are for the stir-fried dish, ddukbokgi.
You can make this dish vegetarian or add a salty protein like spam. Not a fan of spam? Try ham!
Some of the sauce ingredients may sound foreign but they can all be found in local Asian markets. Gochujang is a Korean chili paste; depending on the brand, some may be more spicy than others. The black bean paste is the same paste used to prepare the popular Chinese-Korean noodle dish, jja jang myun. Brown rice syrup is similar to corn syrup in that they are both sugaring agents; however, one is made from rice and the other from corn. If you can’t find brown rice syrup, substitute with corn syrup.
Although there are spicy and non-spicy versions of ddukbokgi, rabboki is prepared with a spicy sauce. The spiciness helps balance the heaviness of the dish. I had a special request to put chive wontons into the dish (carbs on carbs on carbs!) so I added them in for good measure.
While I can eat ddukbokgi anyday, rabboki is reserved for those special days when I truly want comfort Korean food. Ramen noodles with soft, chewy rice cakes with salty spam, sweet onions and carrots all cooked in a spicy sauce? I’m drooling just thinking about it! If you never had Korean food before, this dish would be a great one to introduce you to the cuisine. Go ahead, give it a try!