Layered mushroom tteok cake with white tteok and ricotta cheese. Garnish of parmesan crisp and beet and broccoli sprouts.

Last Friday I learned that the deadline for entering the Korean rice cake (tteok) competition at end of May was the following day. So that very evening, I made a tteok cake with the ingredients I had on hand: soy marinated shittake mushrooms and homemade ricotta cheese.  With only a little bit of rice flour I had in the freezer, I made this mini-cake using paper cups… weighing ingredients, sifting, steaming and playing until the wee hours of the evening.

My mom thought I was crazy for thinking of putting mushrooms into tteok, but I wanted a savory dish that could partner with cheese as an appetizer dish.  I also already had the idea of using parmesan crisp as a garnish…which I must say was pretty easy even using a fry pan.

I was discouraged with my first attempts – it tasted dry and horrible and wasn’t even brown!  A little more playing, and I was actually surprised that I ended up with a real prototype!  It could use more refinement but not bad for first try.

Making parmesan crisp. Melt a little mound of grated parmesan cheese on a frying pan until it bubbles. Then peel it off gently and cool to any shape you like.

This is super savory shittake mushrooms which have been marinated in a sweet soy sauce and boiled fish stock. A umami-packed profile with deep mushroom flavour.

Homemade ricotta cheese. It is absolutely the easiest cheese you can possibly make at home. I used a 3-ingredient recipe: whole milk, a little lemon juice and vinegar. That's it!

Experimental mushroom tteok cakes in bamboo steamer.

White tteok cake. This is the most simple tteok cake made with rice flour and syrup. It's served at the 100th day birthday to symbolize cleanliness, purity and health for the new baby.

Truffle tteok. Little bite-size tteok rolled in red beans cooked and mashed through a sieve. The tteok is made with glutinous rice and a small, round yellowish grain called su-su, which gives it a slightly nutty flavour.

Little wrinkled dried daechu with pine nut lacquered in a syrup reduction. This is a common garnish as well as a dish made into an elaborate piece for special occasions.

Ma (a root vegetable) coated with honey & rice flour, which is then pan-fried and dusted with finely chopped pine nuts.

Soy-pickled Korean radish. Love the crunchy texture of the fresh baby radish and the sweet, soy flavour. And yes, all those chili peppers give it a mean, spicy kick.

Raw oysters in spicy red chili pepper seasoning. A delicious banchan and not as spicy as it looks.

Making barley kochujang, the 4th kochujang variation learned so far. Kochujang is a fermented red chili paste and is a major seasoning in Korean cooking. I have garlic kochujang and sweet pumpkin kochujang fermenting at home.

After being doped on drugs yesterday and with lots of rest, I made it to class today. I’m sure the Wednesday Super Samgyetang also helped my speedy recovery.

It’s already into week 4 of Korean cooking classes.  Here’s the day captured – 9 hrs – 3 classes.

Lettuce "salad" with sweet rice flour.

Inside is Lettuce tteok layered with white sweet bean powder - ready to be steamed.

Lettuce tteok cake, just after it's been flipped out from the "shi-lu" clay steamer

Surprisingly, this is one of my favorite tteok so far. The sweet bean powder melts in your mouth, and the texture of rice cake turned out perfectly.

Honey tteok, before boiling. Dough was made out of sweet rice with various natural colouring.

Honey tteok, after boiling. Rolled in syrup, and hit with a pine nut.

Evaluation time.

Green tea rice cupcakes with sweetened black bean.

Candied lotus root, candied kumquat, candied potato coloured with strawberry powder, candied white root Korean veg coloured green.

Candied kumquats I got to take home. Very tasty, and great to have around.

Sweet pumpkin gochujang (red pepper paste) ready for fermentation, which takes 2-3 months.

Fresh squid marinated in spicy red pepper. Ready to be fermented for 3-4 days. It was the most pungent kick I've had in awhile, in not so good way. Hope the flavours mellow out after fermenting.

Fermented flat fish with white Korean radish.

When I came to Seoul last fall, I was introduced to one of the modern rice cake (tteok) cafe chains.  I was so intrigued….I have never seen such beautifully packaged rice cakes in such variety of shapes and flavours. And I love the rice cakes that look like real baked cake.

Last Saturday in cooking class, we learned to make jujube rice cake which demystified how these lovely cakes are made.  I was really surprised how easy it is!  All it takes is a few essentials on knowing when you have the right dough consistency (like slightly moist sandy crumbs) and preparing the steamer properly as you don’t want condensed water from the lid dropping on your cake.  15 minutes in the steamer, and presto, you have a cake ready to be decorated.

This recipe is a medicinal rice cake due to the jujubes, called daechu in Korean.  I must say the obvious: the word “medicinal” to describe a cake does not sound very tasty, and truth be told I was never fond of jujubes growing up.  My palate has developed I guess because now I can appreciate the complex sweetness of these dried red dates, and this recipe has plenty it as it’s cooked down to a paste so the aroma and flavour really shines through.

Not a fan of jujubes?  I think this recipe can be adapted to so many different flavours, shapes, applications that my mind was spinning… amongst  many ideas, how about peanut butter + banana, or sun-dried tomatoes + olive oil to make something savoury.  Yum!  Don’t know if it’ll work, but I’ll have to try it one day.

Anyway, I digress… back to the recipe.  You’ll notice the cake has no fat, it is purely carb and the presence of jujubes makes it quite healthy as it’s nutritious magic is believed to have medicinal properties.


Notes:  Rice flour can be bought frozen, or you can take soaked (8-12hrs) glutinous rice to a rice cake house and they will ground it for you.  Any excess flour not used must be stored frozen.

  • 5 cups glutinous rice flour*
  • 400g daechu, cooked soft, with liquid (100g dried daechu plus 3 cups water)
  • 1/4 cup makgeolli
  • 1/4 cup sugar (I think brown sugar is better for this recipe)
  • 1 Tbsp coarse sea salt

1.  Press the cooked daechu through a strainer into a pot to remove the seeds and skin.  Cook the daechu puree on medium heat until most of the water is evaporated and until it turns into a thick paste, about 10 mintues.  Cool the paste by putting the pot immediately in bowl of cold water.

2.  In a large bowl, mix salt and sugar into the rice flour.  Add the daechu paste.  Rub the paste with your fingers into the rice flour until it is incorporated evenly.

3.  Add makgeolli, a bit at a time, while mixing it in with your fingers.  It’s important to add a little bit at a time as the amount will vary depending on how much moisture is added from the daechu paste.  The mix may look dry, but it is just right when you squeeze some with your hands and the mix just comes together then easily breaks into coarse powder.

4.  Pass the rice flour mix through fine sieve (about 1-2mm) pressing lightly with your fingers.  Repeat 2-3 times to get a light, sandy powder consistency.

5.  In a medium dim-sum bamboo steamer (about 25cm diameter) with the bottom lined with mesh or cloth, sprinkle the rice powder evenly until the bamboo steamer is filled.  Level the top with a knife or ruler to even the surface.  Dust off excess powder off the edges of the bamboo steamer.

6.  Prepare a large steamer with boiling water.  Line the steamer with kitchen cloth (like a cheese cloth) on the bottom.  When the cake is ready to be put in the steamer, wipe off excess water from the lid and wrap the lid with a large cloth and tied at the handle in the center.  Place the cake in the steamer, close the lid tightly, and steam for 15 minutes (starting from when water is boiling again).

7.  Carefully remove the bamboo steamer from the steamer.  To remove the cake, place a plate on top bamboo steamer and flip.  Then take a plate on top of the cake and flip again.

8.  Decorate the cake with cut dae-chu and pumpkin seeds.

Jujube cake the next day. Note that rice cake is best fresh. If not eaten within 24hrs, it is best to store in the freezer.  Thaw at room temperature, and reheat briefly in microwave or steamer.

Rice cake the next day. Note that it should be eaten fresh, within 24 hrs is best. Otherwise, store in freezer. To serve, thaw at room temperature, and reheat gently in the steamer or microwave.