Young people’s cafe tteokbokki
A popular street food favorite in Korea, tteokbokki—pillowy rice cakes doused in a gochujang sauce—has been gaining traction in the United States thanks to a confluence of Korean pop culture and increased accessibility. The food is available pre-packaged at national wholesalers like Costco, and tteokbokki-specific restaurants are popping up in Korean neighborhoods. The dish also exploded in popularity following the viral video of BTS member Jimin eating it at a Seoul food market.청년창업떡볶이
There’s no shortage of tteokbokki restaurants in the capital city of Seoul. In fact, the number of tteokbokki joints here peaked at more than 30 during the 1980s but suffered a blow in the wake of the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis. But despite the challenges, these restaurants continue to thrive. A quick walk along the streets of Sindang-dong reveals a row of cozy restaurants that serve delicious, filling meals at affordable prices. Most are open 24 hours a day.
Tteokbokki is a simple dish, but its variations are endless. The main ingredients are thick, chewy rice cakes (tteok), red pepper paste (gochujang), and chili powder—but the exact proportions and techniques differ between vendors. This makes it hard to say that one type of tteokbokki is better than another. That said, there are some standouts. Modern tteokbokki, for example, is pan-fried rather than steaming to maintain the rice cakes’ chewy texture and serve them hot. It’s also served with mozzarella cheese to balance the spiciness of gochujang.
Another option is goong joong tteokbokki, which is made with soy sauce and vegetables rather than gochujang for a milder version. Girum tteokbokki, which was once a royal palace dish, is also made with soy sauce and seasoned beef for added protein. Finally, buldak tteokbokki is extremely spicy—it’s made with either a hot version of the buldak instant ramen seasoning powder or capsaicin extract for an eye-watering level of heat.
For the more health conscious, there’s also tteokbokki bbq—where meat is replaced with grilled fish cakes and vegetables. This is a great option for those who don’t want to eat pork or beef but are still craving a hearty meal.
A tteokbokki restaurant that’s been gaining attention recently is Myeongteongguri Tteokbokki Restaraunt Gongneung Branch, the filming location of K-drama Business Proposal. It’s the place where Shin Ha-ri and Jin Yeong-seo often go to hang out and confide in each other.
They serve all kinds of tteokbokki here, but what stands out most is their lower sodium versions of gochujang and red pepper powder. This allows them to taste lighter and more clean. Plus, they add more sesame leaves to help balance the spice and to give it a fresh flavor. Their butter garlic fried potatoes are also worth trying. It’s the perfect compliment to their spicy tteokbokki. If you’re looking for an inviting, friendly spot to eat tteokbokki in the city center of Seoul, look no further than Myeongteongguri Tteokbokki.청년다방