Tteok guk ( Rice Cake Soup) is a popular Korean soup, traditionally eaten on the New Year. In our family, we always add dumplings (mandu or 만두), making Tteok Mandu Guk, for a more hearty and delicious start to the holiday, or any day!
What is Tteok Mandu Guk?
Almost every culture has a food that symbolizes luck and good fortune in the new year, and this Tteok Mandu Guk (Rice Cake and Dumpling Soup) is the one I most associate with my Korean heritage. Traditionally, the rice cakes used in this soup are cut in rounds and are thought to represent coins. Show me the money!!
My mom always added dumplings to our soup, saying the dumplings were shaped like the little Korean money purses (복주머니/Bokjumeoni) that are used as gift bags for candy or money. All I know is, they were my favorite part of this soup! The soup has a clear broth, usually beef or occasionally anchovy or seaweed based, that turns white when the rice cakes are added. All of the elements, brought together, make for the perfect dish to ring in the new year!
What do I need to make the soup?
- Beef Bones and Beef My preferred broth is made with beef. Either cooked or raw bones and beef work well here, but I normally start with bones leftover from Christmas dinner that I froze. I usually have to tear them away from The Boy, but prime rib bones make an amazing broth! I’m not going to ask you to make the traditional beef broth that involves a lot of cold soaking and boiling and discarding of water. I just can’t be bothered to do all that. But if you want to go full authentic, there are recipes for 사골국/Sagol-guk, or beef bone broth, all over the Interwebs.
- Dasida or beef bouillon granules I prefer a bit more beef taste than I get from just boiling the bones. To get that extra flavor I like to use Korean beef granules (Dasida), but beef bouillon granules work just as well. If you decide to go to the Asian Market to find authentic Dasida (you’re going there to get the dumplings and rice cakes after all), don’t get it confused with Dashi, which is a Japanese fish broth! Delicious, but different.
- Dumplings I have made this soup with fresh, homemade dumplings, and I’ve made it with frozen dumplings, and both are great. If using frozen dumplings, look for smaller ones so you can fit more into your bowl. I know I’d rather have 5 or 6 small dumplings than one big one 💁🏻♀️
- Rice cakes These are really only found in Asian Markets, so go have a good time! Called Tteok, they are found both fresh and frozen and are shaped both as long cylinders and as oval coin shapes. The cylinders are usually used in making a spicy rice cake dish called 떡볶이/tteokbokki, which we will revisit someday. The coins are what we’re after today.
How do I make Tteok Mandu Guk?
I used to tell my family I couldn’t make them this soup because it was soooo hard. I lied. With a little planning, it’s actually quite simple and relaxing to make. And that’s what having this soup on the first day of the new year its all about. Here’s how:
- Soak the bones Traditional Korean bone broth calls for a long soak and lots of pre-boiling before the broth-ing begins. In my version, just put the bones and meat in cold water, cover with plastic wrap, and put it in the fridge until tomorrow or for two hours at a minimum. This pulls out any blood from the bones and meat that will discolor an otherwise clean broth. If you don’t want to soak the bones, I’m not going to make you. You’ll end up making more of a dark and robust, Western-style broth, which is also delicious, just not traditional.
- Sear the bones I’m not crazy, I want all the flavor I can get out of the bones and meat, so I give them a quick sear because the flavor is in the brown!
- Add water and simmer You’re going to add an onion and some garlic and lots and lots of water and let it come to a rapid boil, then turn down to a gentle boil for a few hours. This is where all the flavor is added to the broth. Just remember to take a large spoon and skim off any of the yucky stuff that comes off the bones and meat and floats to the surface. When it’s all done simmering, you’ll take out the bones, meat, and vegetables and discard them. Some people keep the meat, but I think we’ve boiled out all the flavor by now. Taste it and you’ll see. Go ahead and toss it or give it to your pet so they can celebrate the new year with you.
- Add the dumplings and rice cakes They only take a few minutes to cook, even from frozen, and a minute or two after they float to the surface they’re ready! All you have to do is garnish and serve up all the riches and good fortune!
Looking for more Korean recipes?
Tteok Mandu Guk 떡만둣국 (Korean Rice Cake and Dumpling Soup)
- 1 lb beef bones
- 1/2 lb beef brisket or steak sliced thickly
- 1 tbs vegetable oil
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 medium onion peeled and sliced in half
- White end of 1 bunch of green onions
- 8 cloves smashed garlic
- 8 cups water
- 1 tsp dasida or beef bouillon
- 3/4 tsp kosher or sea salt
- 1 lb rice cakes dduk or tteok
- 24-32 small mandu (dumplings) fresh or frozen
- 2 eggs
- Thinly sliced remaining part of green onion
- Thinly sliced or crumbled dried seaweed
- If possible, soak bones overnight in cold water to remove any excess blood from the marrow or the meat on the bones. You can soak them for about two hours for similar results, but the broth won't be quite as pure. After soaking, dry the bones and the meat thoroughly with a towel before moving on to the next step. The soaking process gives you a cleaner, lighter tasting broth at the end, but is totally optional. If you don’t soak the bones and meat you’ll end up with more of a Western-style dark and robust bone broth, rather than the lighter Korean broth - also delicious!
- Sear beef bones and meat in 1 tbs vegetable oil and 1 tsp sesame oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven over high heat until caramelized on all sides. Pour in cold water and add onion, green onion, and garlic and bring to a gentle boil. Skim off the scum that forms on the surfance with a spoon or ladle, and discard. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer, covered, about 1 ½ - 2 hours.
- Meanwhile, work on your garnishes. If not purchased pre-sliced, thinly slice or cumble roasted seaweed. Set aside, away from the other garnishes, so they don't become damp.
- Thinly slice your green onion and set aside. If you’re feeling fancy you can your cut green onions in thin strips and soak in ice water until they curl up. Fun!
- To make the egg garnish, whisk the eggs with a teensy pinch of salt. Heat a lightly oiled small nonstick pan over medium low heat. Pour the eggs into a thin layer and cook each side, but do not brown the egg. Roll your cooked egg up like a crepe and allow to cool. This will make it easier to slice. When fully cooled, slice your egg into thin strips and set aside.
- Soak rice cakes in cold water 20 minutes before cooking. This makes them easier to cook later.
- With a skimmer or slotted spoon, remove the bones, meat, onions and garlic from the broth and discard. They've done their work! (Trust me, the meat has no flavor anymore. Take a bite. Yuck. Your pet might like it though!) Stir in salt and dasida or beef bouillon. Taste for seasoning and adjust to your desired salt level. Return the broth to a boil.
- Add the rice cake slices and dumplings to the boiling broth, stirring gently to make sure they don’t stick to the bottom. Boil until the rice cakes turn very soft and the dumplings all rise to the surface, usually about 5 – 8 minutes.
- Ladle the steaming soup into individual bowls and garnish with the egg strips, seaweed, and green onion. Good fortune and Happy New Year!
The nutritional and caloric information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It does not assert or suggest that readers should or should not count calories, and should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s or doctor’s counseling.
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