I’ve been craving spice lately. Also, fun textures. The obvious answer: Tteokbokki.
Not familiar with the Korean rice cakes? I usually introduce them to friends as resembling “Korean gnocchi,” but their texture is often closer to the chewy tapioca boba you’ll find in your bubble tea. They’re typically served in a spicy sauce with similarly elastic slices of fish cake, maybe an egg.
But not all tteokbokki are created equal. Take, for instance, the version I recently had for lunch at Young Dabang. The eatery is a stand inside the Fairfax H-Mart, just across the way from one called Let Them Talk, which serves both Korean corn dogs and mochi doughnuts. A return visit to the food court is obviously in order.
I was impervious to delicious distractions, though. I was eager for what I had heard was the spiciest tteokbokki around. The extra-large pans include a medium sized for two or three people and a large intended for three or four. I ordered the smaller of the two and dispatched most of it on my own. I just couldn’t stop biting into the chewy, extra-long rice cakes.
The pan comes with a pair of scissors for cutting up the cakes into bite-sized pieces. This adds fun novelty to the meal, but so does the variety of foods contained in a serving. There’s a tangled nest of al dente ramen noodles, as well as the expected fish cakes and egg. This version also includes a pair of fried dumplings filled with the kind of sweet potato-based glass noodles you’ll find in japchae. But the centerpiece is a pile of lightly seared brisket (other options include squid and a cheesy omelete), very much like the thinly sliced versions of the beef served at Korean barbecue restaurants.
Those last two ingredients sit atop the saucy pasta, unmarred by the fiery-sweet sauce. It proves a welcome respite from the inferno. But it’s tough to stay away from the spicy bits for too long.
11200 Fairfax Blvd., Fairfax
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