Teeokguk (rice cake soup) is a delicious, filling soup made of disc-shaped rice cakes in a clear broth. Koreans always eat it on Seollal (Korean New Year’s Day), the first day of the Lunar calendar and one of the most important holidays in Korea. Traditionally, according to Korean age reckoning, everyone’s age went up one year on Seollal, and the process wasn’t totally complete until you had a bowl of tteokguk. I make a beef broth in this recipe, but you can use any meat you prefer, or use seafood, or just make an anchovy stock or kelp stock.
You’d ask someone on Seollal: “Did you eat a bowl of rice cake soup today?” Meaning: are you one year older?
These days Koreans also have tteokguk on Western New Year’s day, January 1st, too. The whiteness of the soup symbolizes a clean, fresh start to the new year, and the disc-shaped rice cakes look like coins, so they symbolize a wish for upcoming prosperity for anyone who eats them.
Despite the symbolism, this soup is not just for special occasions: personally, I eat it all the time, because it’s delicious and easy to make! It’s a one bowl meal.
I think the real key to this soup is i making a clear, delicious broth, which takes some care and attention to do. But overall this is a very easy recipe to make: you can buy the rice cakes in a Korean grocery store, or even make your own with my garaetteok recipe.
Why don’t you make a resolution to try tteokguk on new year’s day, and let me know how it turns out!
Ingredients (2-3 servings)
- 1 pound sliced tteok rice cakes (or homemade) soaked in cold water for 30 minutes and drained
- 7 cups water
- ½ pound beef (flank steak or brisket), chopped into small pieces
- 3 to 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 dae-pa large green onions (or 3 green onions), washed and sliced thinly and diagonally.
- 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- 2 eggs
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce (or soup soy sauce to your taste)
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 sheet of kim (black seaweed paper)
- 1 red pepper (optional), chopped
- Put the water in a heavy pot, cover, and bring it to a vigorous boil over high heat for 12 to 15 minutes.
- Add the beef and garlic and lower the heat to medium. Cover and let it boil for 20 to 25 minutes more, until you get a delicious broth.
- Roast both sides of a sheet of gim until it’s bright green and very crispy. Put it in a plastic bag and crush it by hand. Set aside.
- Separate the egg yolks from the whites of two eggs, putting yolks and whites into separate bowls. Add pinch of salt to each and mix with a fork. Remove the stringy chalaza from the yolks.
- Add the cooking oil to a heated non-stick pan. Swirl the oil around so it covers the pan, and then wipe off the excess with a kitchen towel, leaving a thin oily layer on the pan.
- Turn off the heat. Pour the egg yolk mixture into the pan and tilt it so it spreads evenly and thinly. Let it cook on the hot pan for about 1 minute. Flip it over and let it sit on the pan for another minute, then take it off, slice it into thin strips and set it aside.
- Add the rice cake to the boiling soup along with fish sauce, salt, and sliced green onion. Stir it with a ladle. Cover and let it cook for 7 to 8 minutes until all the rice cakes are floating. Pour the salted egg whites into the boiling soup and let it cook for a minute.
- Add sesame oil, ground black pepper, and chopped green onion. Stir it well. Remove it from the heat and ladle the rice cake soup into indivudual serving bowls. Garnish with chopped green onion, yellow egg strips, crushed seaweed, and red pepper if you want.
- Serve it right away, with kimchi and more side dishes if you want. If you wait too long the rice cakes will get soggy, so everybody dig in and enjoy!