떡볶이 (tukbokgi). Or ddukbokki. (Or whatever. I really hate writing out Korean words in Roman alphabet.. sorry. But it’s so easy for you to learn.) The yellow pancake looking thing is my new favorite dish: butternut squash pancakes. I learned in from Maangchi’s video, and added some scallions, garlic, and ground black pepper to adjust to my taste.
The initial reaction I received from the ladies in the picture can be roughly translated to something in between , “I’ve never had 떡볶이 like this before.” and, “what the hell kind of a 떡볶이 is this?!”
For those unfamiliar, it’s not normally that colorful of a dish. It’s just orange-ish red, with way less veggies. It should look more like this:
This is the more proper version we made on our previous full-moon 떡볶이 get together, with the ramen, oden, and the whole thing. I get the relaxed, warm feeling just looking at the pictures from that night. In fact, I am convinced that one will find very few Korean people who cannot feel that warm, nostalgic sentiment when talking about this dish. It’s the ultimate after school snack, and it’s probably the meal that many people had during their first time ever dining out “only with friends” experience. Thinking back, I feel a little guilty for perhaps ruining the essence of 떡볶이 by making massive changes for my fellow aficionadas. But I think the real spirit of it is being chatty and overeating together, and we got that part down for sure.
But I had my own reasons for hippifying the street fast food supreme. The night before, I had went to the Lubalin exhibition opening at the Cooper Union, and afterward, conveniently ended up at Song 7.2, the soju bar/ Korean fast food place in the East Village where 75% of the food menu consists of empty carbohydrates, and the other 25%, deep-fried empty carbs. We had already planned our tukboki gathering days in advance. So that night, after devouring my plate of fried sea weed wrapped glass noodles drenched in more traditional tukboki sauce with my pumpkin soju, I realized that should respect the message from my body urging me to not repeat this two days in a row. That is how the tukboki turned out purple and orange.
The main adjustments that took place in this version is the amount of rice cake vs. vegetables (red cabbage, carrots, onions, garlic, butternut squash, and mushrooms), the sea weed broth, and the substitution of tofu shirataki noodles in place of ramyun noodles. Ramyun is generally my favorite part about home made tukboki, so this was a bit of a risky experiment. My verdict: Ramyun can never really be replaced, but shirataki noodles are acceptable, especially counting in the lack of bloated feeling afterward. But the dashima, and the 3 different kinds of mushrooms I used really made the dish.
And this made me feel a bit like a real adult. There was a time when I didn’t care what the hell was in the red sauce. I just wanted it to be spicy with just the right amount of sweet. The biggest worry I had was to not get the sauce all over my shirt. I still worry about that, but I am worried more about the consequences of my intake. I considered Coca Cola to be ultimate accompaniment, but now I opt for Chianti.
It turned it into something completely different than what tukboki should have been, but I liked it regardless. I am growing up, slowly, and it’s just fine with me.