What do you get when you mix the iconic Korean street food tteokbokki and the classic American mac and cheese?
TTEOK AND CHEESE!
Tteok and cheese is an ultimate comfort food to me! Soft rice cakes, bubbly dashi infused cheese sauce, a mountain of roasted garlic, all my favorite veggies… Snuggled beneath a golden crispy crunchy top. I can devour this treat straight from the baking dish, and fight you for the last bite. But win or loose, nobody will be hungry after this. That’s guaranteed!Shortcut to Tteok & Cheese here!
CHEESY RICE CAKES
I ended up with this tteok and cheese equation when I was simultaneously craving for Korean rice cakes (tteok) and mac and cheese. I’ve never been to Korea, yet I’ve fallen in love with tteokbokki, a dish consisting of rice cakes in an addictively spicy gochujang sauce… (That’s putting it quite simply by the way, there’s obviously way more to this dish than that). I’ve been making tteokbokki at home since 2017, and although I don’t cook this rich and delightfully spicy dish as often as I did in the beginning, the craving hits regularly. I’m actually super happy that my tteokbokki post (in Finnish here) is still one of the most read recipes on my blog!
The idea of combining tteokbokki and cheese sauce has actually been brewing in my mind since I had cheesy rice cakes in New York a few years ago. And with a quick googling I can tell that many others have had the same revelation 🙂 The internet is filled with recipes for ‘tteok & cheese,’ ‘cheesy tteokbokki,’ and ‘cheese tteok.’ It seems that cheese-covered tteokbokki and other cheesy rice cake creations are quite popular in Korea as well! What wouldn’t I give to experience tteokbokki with all its variations firsthand on the streets of Seoul someday…
Oh well. While waiting for that dream trip to happen, I shall continue my culinary journeys from home. The tteok & cheese recipes I came across with seem to vary from simple combinations of rice cakes and cheese sauce to more complex creations. Can you guess which category my dish falls into?
Cheesy Loaded rice cakes!
Yeah… I went all in with my tteok & cheese. The casserole was loaded with pan-fried king oyster mushrooms, leeks, spring onions, broccolini, and deep-fried tofu – plus rice cakes of course! I also found a box of local sweet corn that I froze at the end of summer. In you go corn!
My cheese sauce happily combines ingredients from various parts of East Asia and also our Western neighbor Sweden. The base of the sauce is Japanese kombu dashi, which I enriched with oat cream and thickened with a garlic roux. What’s that you say? Well, I browned a heap of garlic in vegan butter, then added in wheat flour. A pinch of white pepper and Chinese five spice, a drizzle of Shaoxing wine, and then it’s time for the star. Lots of cheese! I wanted a really flavorful cheese so I opted for the ever-delicious Västerbotten cheese from Sweden. Quite a combination, but I love it!
All things in moderation…
Both the rice cakes and the cheese sauce are extremely filling and hearty. And, you need lots of the sauce to ensure all the rice cakes are thoroughly coated… Fully immersed under the cheesy blanket, the rice cakes become heavenly soft. Left to peak on the surface? Not quite so soft at all. And I want my rice cakes soft!!
You could leave this dish as just rice cakes and cheese sauce, and call it a day. But in my opinion all those carbs and fat need some balancing! Hence, all those veggies. As much as I love my carbs and cheese, I love veggies too, and my comfort food will almost always have plenty of veg! They also turn this meal into a more balanced kind – you get some fiber and nutrients along with each comforting spoonful…
… except the crunch!
To ensure a properly crunchy top, I sprinkle panko crumbs and sesame seeds on the surface before baking. You can of course also add more cheese! I’m also opting for a dish that’s on the shallow side for this recipe, in order to maximize the surface area. And to amp the crunch up, I garnish the golden-brown surface with crispy fried onions, and crumbled nori seaweed snacks right before serving!
Tteok & cheese time!
Despite the long list of ingredients, tteok & cheese is relatively straightforward to prepare. You just make the cheese sauce, then layer everything in the baking dish. The oven does the rest! You do need to find all the ingredients first though– or just replace some with what you have in your own pantry. (I’ve added suggestions for substitutions in the recipe.) I do however highly recommend a visit to your local Asian grocery store!
Please enjoy my take on Tteok & Cheese! I hope this recipe will bring you as much joy and comfort as it’s brought to me. If you do make it, I’d love to hear how it turns out! You can tag me over on IG @vaimomatskuu – or leave a comment here ☺️
Cheesy loaded rice cakes aka tteok and cheese
- 60 g (Plant based) butter
- 12-16 Cloves of garlic (depending on their size)
- 4 tbsp All-purpose flour
- 1 dl Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
- 6 dl Kombu dashi (or diluted tsuyu for broth)
- 4 dl Oat cream (or other plant based cooking cream)
- 2 tsp Garlic powder
- ½ tsp Ground white pepper
- 2 tsp Chinese five spice
- 400 g Nutty strong cheese, grated (For example Västerbotten, aged cheddar, )
- 1-2 tsp Miso paste
For the casserole:
- 400 g Korean tteok rice cakes
- 200 g Deep fried tofu puffs
- 200 g Broccoli florets (or bok choy, spinach, kale…)
- 4-6 King oyster mushrooms (or similar amount button mushrooms or shiitake)
- 2 tbsp Plant based butter
- 1 Leek
- 4-6 Spring onions
- 2 dl corn
- Panko bread crumbs
- Sesame seeds
- Crispy fried onions
- Nori seaweed snacks
- Spring onions
- Preheat the oven to 225°C. Boil a pot of water. Place the rice cakes in a heat-resistant container and pour enough hot water over them to cover. Leave the rice cakes soaking in the hot water while you prepare the other ingredients.
- Slice the leek in to ½ cm rounds, wash them thoroughly (leeks can hide dirt inside them!). Chop up the broccoli into bite sized piece, finely mince the spring onions. Cut the mushrooms to bite sized pieces, and brown them in a small amount of butter in a frying pan. If the broccoli has thick stems, you may want to thrown them on the pan too for a moment. If using frozen corn, thaw and drain it. And finally: peel and thinly slice all that garlic!
- Heat up the dashi and keep it warm under a lid. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and sauté the garlic until it starts to have a light golden color. Add in the flour and stir with a whisk or wooden fork until smooth. Gradually add in the Shaoxing wine and dashi while stirring, to avoid any lumps. Finally, add in the oat cream and the spices.
- Let the sauce simmer for a few minutes while stirring, then add the grated cheese. Stir the sauce until smooth, taste, adjust as needed. Then remove the saucepan from the heat. Keep the sauce warm under a lid!
Tteok and cheese:
- Drain the rice cakes from the soaking water and separate any that are stuck together. Layer the rice cakes, mushrooms, tofu, and vegetables in a flat baking dish and mix. Pour the cheese sauce over them. Try to push all rice cakes under the sauce!
- Sprinkle panko and sesame seeds on top (and optionally a bit more grated cheese). Bake the dish on the middle rack of the oven for about 20 minutes, then move it to the top rack to get a golden color. You can also turn on the broiler at this point, just be careful not to burn the surface!
- Let the dish rest for a moment before serving, and finish the Tteok & Cheese with crumbled nori seaweed, fried onions and some chopped spring onions.
Afterthought: I know I dubbed this as the lovechild of Tteokbokki and Mac & Cheese and it’s really not very close to neither. Yes there are Korean rice cakes like in Tteokbokki and yes there’s a cheese sauce like in Mac and Cheese. But I suppose that’s where the similarities end 🤪 But then again, no child is quite like their parents?