Happy July, dear friends! It is time to say “annyeonghaseyo” (“hello”) to a snack inspired by a Korean dish called tteokbokki. While many foodies tend to think of Korea when they spot this Korean-made snack in shops, I am taking a walk down memory lane in another continent.
This tteokbokki snack is an old friend to my snack stash. We go way back, as it was one of my all-time favorite Asian snacks in Australia. The Daiso on Adelaide Street in Brisbane’s city-center was constantly stocked with this snack. I used to grab a bag or two whenever I popped into the shop – I simply couldn’t resist tasting the flavors that were waiting to be enjoyed! That particular Daiso outlet was one of the places in Brisbane that had a nice selection of Asian snacks and drinks to choose from, aside from all the other lifestyle bits.
Brisbane, and Australia in general, is home to wonderful Korean restaurants. Being in the mode of reminiscing fun snacking moments, I began thinking about the Korean restaurants in Brisbane – especially their inviting aromas and all of the delicious dishes I had the pleasure of tasting. Looking at the snack’s red packaging, it reminds me of one of my favorite Korean dishes in Brisbane, the spicy chicken and rice.
Fast forward to a month or two ago here in the Lion City, I found the snack in a Korean grocery store whilst randomly browsing the aisles. It was a sign from the foodie universe – I had to buy a pack. Well, two to be precise. Recently, I decided to choose this munchie for a savory snack pick.
A Bit About Tteokbokki
Essentially, tteokbokki is a dish consisting of chewy rice cakes (called ‘tteok’ in Korean) that are cooked in a red sauce. But this particular rice cake-filled eat isn’t the one that solely sweet tooths would enjoy. Rather, it belongs in the savory and spicy categories. This rice cake dish, which is a beloved member of Korea’s street food scene, is super flavorful with ‘comfort food’ vibes. To me, it kind of resembles penne pasta in tomato sauce from afar.
It looks the part of the ‘spicy’ description too, particularly through a chili-red hued sauce. This sauce features gochujang – a spicy chili paste which is integral in Korean cuisine. The spicy touch doesn’t stop there in some tteokbokki recipes, through the addition of gochugaru (Korean chili flakes/powder).
Beyond the rice cakes and sauce ‘base’, foodies add their own twists to the dish: some top theirs with melted cheese, others might include the likes of fish cakes and boiled eggs in theirs. In general, chopped spring onions is a common ingredient in tteokbokki. It is either tossed through the dish, or it is sprinkled on top as a garnish.
Annyeong, Old Friend!
Although they don’t look like traditional chips, these munchies tend to be classified as ‘chips’ by some, according to my brief sleuthing. At first glance, the chips’ fiery-red appearance is reminiscent to the famous Korean fire noodles (or infamous for those brave foodies who couldn’t stand its spiciness) and flamin’ hot Cheetos. Although ‘rice powder’ is listed as an ingredient, the snack’s texture is completely opposite to that of the tteok rice cakes. It packs a delightful crunch and firmness that feel like home in the snack realm. And the munchies have a piped shape that reminds me of churros!
Scrutinizing the munchies closely, a red sticky glaze-like seasoning coats all of the chips entirely, hence being a huge nod to the dish that inspired its creation. Sprinklings of what seems like spring onions season the chips nicely as well.
As someone who possesses a low-to-medium chili tolerance, it most certainly has a kick from the chili-based ingredients. However, the level of spiciness is manageable to my palate.
The medley of flavors come alive boldly in this snack. Chewing thoughtfully, the strongest flavor that my taste buds detected was chili. I reckon this is where actual gochujang (or something along the lines of gochujang) comes into the picture, as an ingredient called ‘red pepper paste’ is included in the translated ingredients list on the package.
Gentle sweet undertones alleviate a potential metaphoric dragon-like fire-breathing sensation. This layer to the flavor is very likely credited to sugar cane powder and creamed coconut, as they are listed in the ingredients list too.
All in all, I definitely enjoyed this reunion with a snack that I have loved for a very long time. It was the perfect snack for my weekend movie night!