What is tteokbokki? The next food trend is Korea’s ultimate street food.

What is tteokbokki? The next food trend is Korea’s ultimate street food.

Ask any Korean what their favored street food is and, most probably, at the major of the list will be tteokbokki — the pillowy smooth rice cakes doused in a sticky purple pepper sauce. Now the dish is gaining traction in the U.S. many thanks to a confluence of Korean well known lifestyle and accessibility. 

Pre-packaged variations of the food have started out popping up at countrywide wholesalers like Costco, on the net gross sales are spiking and tteokbokki-unique places to eat are growing. There also was, of program, that instant BTS singer Jimin helped make it a trending merchandise on social media when he was spotted having it at a Seoul foods sector. Tteokbokki is also the favored foodstuff of Ji-Younger, Sesame Street’s’ initial Asian muppet.

O’Food, a world wide producer of Korean pantry staples, commenced providing instantaneous pre-packaged tteokbokki in the U.S. in October 2021 by means of on the net retailers this kind of as Walmart and Amazon. Its revenue of the rice cake have amplified 450{ead4cb8c77dfcbdb67aba0af1ff8dfae0017fcc07a16fe7b51058939ac12c72a} around the final yr. 

“Our bestselling merchandise on on line platforms has constantly been gochujang, but our tteokbokki item line has presently become our runner-up inside of a year,” O’Food organization representative Justin Park advised NBC News. 

He additional that tteokbokki has outpaced common Western treats at periods, with his item and Quaker alternating for initial and next bestsellers in the “rice cakes” classification at Amazon’s Grocery and Gourmet Food items area.

O’Foods pre-packaged tteokbokki
O’Food, which sells packaged tteokbokki, has experienced a 450{ead4cb8c77dfcbdb67aba0af1ff8dfae0017fcc07a16fe7b51058939ac12c72a} boost in profits in excess of the final calendar year. O’Foods

Its sentimental worth is not lost among the second-technology Korean Us residents, even as new clientele explore the ease and comfort food stuff.

“One of my earliest recollections is when I was 9 or 10 several years old, I was in Korea for the summer months, and my cousins took me to a jip (retail outlet) ideal by their property and I just keep in mind crying, so mae-yo (spicy),” mentioned Joanne Lee Molinaro, creator driving the Instagram account The Korean Vegan and cookbook by the exact name.

“I imagine that is a rite of passage that a lot of Korean Americans have. As a end result, its attractiveness form of exploded. It is unquestionably exploded in my own site,” Molinaro reported. “People would print out that recipe and just take it to the Korean grocery retailer and say, ‘I want to make this.’”

Korean meals has lengthy been getting consciousness with Western audiences. Bibimbap was an early Goop — and Gwyneth Paltrow’s — favorite recipe in 2009. Korean barbeque joints in urban areas on a regular basis command extensive strains. But the proliferation of Korean enjoyment — a lot of which features significant plot lines hinging on consuming (assume ram-don in “Parasite”) — has aided accelerate interest in dishes past Korean fried hen and K-Bbq. And Netflix has turned Korean foods demonstrates and dramas into world wide sensations.

Yumi Yang pulls tteokbokki rice cakes apart before they are chopped up at San Su Jang rice cake shop in Los Angeles
Yumi Yang pulls tteokbokki rice cakes aside before they are chopped up at San Su Jang rice cake shop in Los Angeles in February 1997. Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Instances by using Getty Photographs file

“Recently the growth of Korean music, K-pop, Korean dramas, Korean films, and everything Korean tradition has turn into a great deal far more well-liked and now approved as one thing hip and awesome and something to try out out,” said Hooni Kim, the very first chef to acquire a Michelin star for Korean cuisine. “Somebody who has never ever attempted Korean food stuff but loves BTS and enjoys the film ‘Parasite,’ it is a great deal less difficult for them to try Korean foods.”

Kim sells a packaged edition of tteokbokki in his top quality food items retail store in New York Metropolis, Small Banchan Shop. He resources his dduk from the rice cake maker and bakery Yedang, which he swears by. “This is the finest place. I have tried using just about every dduk from each purveyor,” he mentioned.

The moment a delicacy served in royal courts, the tubular rice cakes day back again to the Joseon period in Korea, the place it was ordinarily cooked in a sweet soy sauce and beef. It is considered to be initially documented in the 19th century cookbook “Siuijeonseo,” nevertheless its modern-day-day sort has progressed to be crimson, sticky and sweet, simmered with really hard boiled eggs and fish cakes. That far too, on the other hand, is shifting as new improvements carry new flavors.

In New York City, the cafe Witch Toppoki is betting on rice cakes’ expanding attraction by bringing a wider selection to the community. The restaurant opened its to start with locale in Flushing, Queens, in December 2022, and a second in nearby Bayside in February 2023. 

Witch Toppoki in New York City
Witch Toppoki in New York City opened its second area in February.Youyoung Lee

The menu highlights a range of rice cakes, from sweet potato to wheat to corn, and unconventional sauces like rose and carbonara. Rice cakes are brief like gnocchi, medium-sized or extended and skinny. Company decide on substances from the buffet — most generated in Korea, conserve for the vegetables — and cook dinner tableside.

“I feel more youthful generations actually like it, since this is the initial strategy in the United States,” said Jerry Kim, typical supervisor at Witch Toppoki, who mentioned identical principles currently existed in Asia. “There’s a whole lot of all-you-can-eat KBBQ, but [stateside] they under no circumstances experienced a spicy rice cake.”

The restaurant Yup Dduk, which opened in L.A. in 2015 and specializes in spicy Korean consolation food items, turned the flavors of tteokbokki into the preferred hashtag “#Ktownspicychallenge.” It dares people to conquer rice cakes smothered in sauces so spicy they deserve a spot on “Hot Ones,” like cheongyang pepper, which is 10,000 Scoville heat models, and the even hotter Korean ghost pepper, ttaengcho.

Yup Dduk is initially a franchise restaurant from South Korea whose significant expansion  speaks to tteokbokki’s prospective across the pond — the franchise has 500 destinations globally. 

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