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Methods to use Korean rice muffins, a.ok.a. tteok, a chewy, versatile delight

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Korean rice muffins, ceaselessly Romanized as tteok (although you may discover variations in spelling), are a staple ingredient within the nation’s delicacies. Sometimes made by steaming after which pounding a easy dough of rice flour, salt and water earlier than rolling into cylinders, rice muffins have a delightfully bouncy, chewy texture. Right here’s what it’s good to learn about tteok and methods to use them.

Rising up in Korea, cookbook writer Emily Kim, higher referred to as Maangchi, would take rice soaked at house to her native mill to be was rice muffins. Now based mostly in New York Metropolis, “typically you’ll find it in a Korean grocery retailer freshly made,” Maangchi mentioned, however you’re extra more likely to discover ready rice muffins which were refrigerated or frozen. (Or should you’re on the lookout for a undertaking, you may even make them at home.)

“Taste-wise, it is rather very like rice,” chef and cookbook writer Hooni Kim mentioned, calling it a clean canvas. Nonetheless, “the nice ones have a contact of nutty, popcorn-y, very, very savory taste,” which is likely to be a results of different components used along with the bottom recipe, reminiscent of toasted sesame oil used to maintain the tteok from sticking whereas they’re being rolled or a coating of toasted soybean powder. However as an alternative of rice muffins’ taste, texture is their prized function. “When cooked accurately, it’s mushy, pillowy, chewy, starchy,” Kim mentioned. “Very enjoyable to chew.”

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Tteok are available in quite a lot of sizes and shapes and may be composed of various components. The very first thing to notice is that whereas most rice muffins that I’ve encountered are simply created from rice flour, they will include different grains, together with wheat flour, so it’s vital to examine for gluten-free labeling in case you have a dietary restriction.

“The best way you make these rice muffins are just about the identical system, besides the scale and the form goes to be completely different based mostly on what you need to use it for,” Kim mentioned.

Kim says he believes the unique type was garaetteok, that are about an inch in diameter and may be as much as 12 inches lengthy. This form appears to be much less generally accessible, maybe bought solely at Korean grocery shops. If you’ll be able to discover them, Maangchi suggests inserting them beneath the broiler till barely scorched, then dipping them in rice syrup or honey.

Probably the most frequent shapes is known as tteokguk-tteok, which roughly interprets to “rice cake soup rice cake” in line with Kim. This form is made by thinly slicing garaetteok, normally on the bias, to get oval-shaped cash. These sliced rice muffins, as you may in all probability infer from the title, are usually used for soup — tteokguk is “the normal Korean dish for Lunar New 12 months,” Kim mentioned — however you can too use them in sautes and stir-fries.

The opposite frequent form are thinner cylinders roughly two inches lengthy and a few half-inch thick. These rice muffins are most popularly utilized in tteokbokki — the Korean avenue meals of rice muffins cooked in a spicy gochujang-based sauce — and typically referred to as tteokbokki-tteok.

Rice muffins may be discovered recent, refrigerated or frozen from Korean, worldwide and different specialty grocery shops — and even on-line. (Rice muffins will final for 3 to 4 months within the freezer.) When searching for rice muffins, Maangchi suggests avoiding packages with powder on the floor of the muffins. “Don’t purchase these as a result of it means they’re somewhat outdated and dried out, and can crack if you prepare dinner them,” she wrote on her website.

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When it comes time to prepare dinner tteok, the most important level of consideration is whether or not they have to be soaked and for the way lengthy.

Each Maangchi and Kim agree that recent rice muffins don’t have to be soaked earlier than utilizing in recipes. For refrigerated or frozen rice muffins, Maangchi suggests a “very brief” soaking time as a result of “I don’t understand how lengthy the rice muffins had been within the freezer or fridge.” For her, a fast soak as brief as 10 minutes helps pace up the prepare dinner time. “In any other case the rice muffins are dried very exhausting and you need to prepare dinner them a very long time to make them easy,” she mentioned. As well as, soaking removes any extra starch on the floor of the rice muffins, which Maangchi likes to take action that it doesn’t thicken her dish an excessive amount of.

Kim, alternatively, soaks vacuum-packed rice muffins in a single day and does the identical with ones he will get from a rice cake store in the event that they’ve been sitting round for some time. “After they get actually outdated, it takes loads longer to hydrate to make mushy,” he mentioned. “The drier, not-so-fresh rice muffins, you’re going to need to boil it for a superb possibly 5, 10 minutes earlier than they soften up.”

Nonetheless, a few of the recipes I discovered on-line and in cookbooks made no point out of soaking rice muffins earlier than utilizing them. In my (admittedly very restricted) expertise, I didn’t discover any noticeable distinction after I did a fast soak versus utilizing them straight from the bundle. However this will come right down to specifics with completely different producers and producers.

“We’ve two completely different locations the place we get it. We undoubtedly know one place is healthier than the opposite, and the rice muffins maintain within the soup higher and change into softer sooner,” Kim mentioned. “After they’re out, we’ve to make use of anyone else’s rice muffins. And people we don’t even think about cooking with out soaking in a single day in water.”

Kim notes how there generally is a large distinction within the texture, taste and ease of cooking of tteok from model to model or retailer to retailer. “The not-so-well-made rice muffins, they disintegrate actually quick after they soften. The actually good ones hold their form and keep mushy.” So as soon as you discover rice muffins that you just like, it’s a good suggestion to stay with them should you can. (I discovered that those by Ourhome, with the big crimson stripe down the center of the bundle, disintegrated as soon as softened.)

Get the recipe: Korean Rice Cakes (Tteok) With Spicy Sausage and Kimchi

With regards to cooking with rice muffins, they’re “very versatile,” Kim mentioned. His favourite solution to take pleasure in them is tteokguk — “It’s good any time of the 12 months,” he mentioned — however he additionally eats them with any type of leftover stew or chili. “It might substitute rice in most dishes, whether or not it’s Asian or not. Noodle dishes, as effectively.” As such, Maangchi likes to make use of tteok because the starch to spherical out her meals. One level of warning is that “you don’t need to put it in something very gentle in taste, as a result of that will simply dilute that taste much more,” Kim mentioned.

As a straightforward introduction, you might simply boil them till they float and toss along with your favourite pasta sauce. One other easy thought is so as to add them to your favourite soup or on the spot ramen. If utilizing them in a saute or stir fry, “even with none form of liquid, should you prepare dinner it in actually [hot] oil, it’ll get mushy and crispy,” Kim mentioned.

If you happen to’ve by no means tried rice muffins, that is your signal so as to add them to your pantry stock to find the marvel that they’re. And shortly, you gained’t be capable of reside with out them. For Kim, “I really feel secure at all times having some in my freezer.”

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