Make This Spicy Rose Tteokbokki for Valentine’s Day Dinner

The creamy rice cake dish is wildly popular in Korea.

tokki la los angeles rose tteokbokki rice cakes korean recipe
Photo courtesy of Tokki
Photo courtesy of Tokki

For Valentine’s Day, some people expect boxes of chocolates, sips of champagne, or enormous bouquets of roses. But we’re enthusiastic about rose tteokbokki, a riff on the Korean street food that’s creamier than the original yet still fantastically chewy and subtly spicy.

The founders of Tokki—Alex Park, Yohan Park, Patrick Liu, John Kim—are also fans of the dish, enough so to include it on the menu at their Los Angeles-based restaurant. Tokki is an expression of the four founders’ Asian-American identities, translated into an eclectic Korean-inspired watering hole. Everything from the decor, flatware, and menu was intimately examined before their grand opening in October 2021.

“All of us have had the similar experiences of growing up in America with that dual Asian-American identity,” Liu explains. “It’s a shared experience where you’re not quite Asian but you’re also not quite American.” Liu views this as a strength when it comes to food, drawing inspiration from Chicago’s Chinatown where he grew up, as well as the Koreatowns in both New York and Los Angeles.

The drinks are just as inventive: There’s a selection of natural wines, sake and soju, and cocktails using infused spirits that feature the delicate flavors of Korean pear, lychee, and pomegranate.

Liu and his partners collaborated with chef Sunny Jang to dream up the menu, tossing out flavor inspiration from childhood or dishes experienced during travel. “It felt like a startup garage where you're literally just in one room and you have both an Excel spreadsheet, a whiteboard and, and tons of tabs open of pictures and places and things,” Liu laughs. From there, the founders and Jang narrowed down the menu and settled on tapas-style dishes that are shareable, unique, and flavorful enough to work in tandem with the drinks menu.

The menu is playful and engaging, toeing the line between fine dining and drinking food. “We use traditional Korean food as a base, but with a twist,” Liu says. This includes kimchi fried rice heightened with truffle-kissed bulgogi, a colorful uni toast bejeweled with smoked trout roe, and of course the rosé—not just rose—tteokbokki, which features a dash of wine in the sauce.

“Our Rosé Tteokbokki has elements of Italian style in it,” Liu says. “It’s more like a pink sauce than anything, but still a little bit spicy.” Rose tteokbokki in Korea is just the regular, sticky-sweet tteokbokki tossed with cream. The version at Tokki is a bit more nuanced, with oyster sauce, bacon, and even a combination of goat cheese and manchego to tie the whole dish together. It’s thoughtful without being pretentious—at the end of the day, tteokbokki is still a street food, and a perfect pairing for drinking.

“It’s very noticeably Korean, but with added elements to make it a little bit more complex, a bit different,” Liu grins. “I think we hit the goldmine on flavor.”

tokki la korean rice cakes tteokbokki recipe spicy creamy rose
Photo courtesy of Tokki

Rosé TteokBokki

(7-8 Servings)

Ingredients:

Anchovy Stock

  • Dashima
  • 15 grams dried anchovy
  • Onion trimmings
  • Scallion

Chili Sauce

  • 4.5 grams of chili paste
  • .75 grams MSG
  • 1.5 grams oyster sauce
  • 2 grams corn syrup
  • .75 grams beef MSG
  • .3 grams fine chili powder
  • 3 grams oil

Rosé Sauce

  • 100 grams bacon
  • 13 grams chopped garlic
  • 60 grams white onion
  • 30 grams white wine
  • 70 grams chili sauce
  • 150 grams anchovy stock
  • 150 grams heavy cream
  • 28 grams soy sauce
  • 57 grams ketchup
  • 110 grams corn syrup
  • 30 grams goat cheese
  • 37 grams manchego
  • 2 grams fish sauce

Tteok + Garnish

  • 20 cylinder-shaped rice cakes or tteok
  • 1 tablespoon diced enoki mushrooms
  • Perilla leaves (sliced)
  • Shredded cheese
  • Gooseberries (optional)

Directions:

Make the anchovy stock
1. Soak 1 Korean kelp (dashima) for 30 minutes to an hour.
2. In a pot of water, boil dashima, dried anchovy, onion trimmings and 1 scallion on medium-low heat for 10 minutes.
3. After 10 minutes, remove the kelp with tongs, and boil the remaining ingredients for 10 more minutes.
4. Strain the liquid through a cheesecloth/strainer for your anchovy stock.

Make the rosé sauce
1. Render out the fat from the bacon.
2. Add the onions and garlic and cook until onions are tender.
3. Add the wine on high heat and cook until half of the wine is reduced.
4. Add the rose base (chili sauce), dashi, cream, milk, ketchup, special soy, and corn syrup.
5. Allow the sauce to get warm (the liquids are cold so the sauce isn't as hot). Blend the cheese with the sauce in a blender (the sauce being warm also allows the cheese to melt too in the blender).

Put it all together
1. Saute some mushrooms (enoki for us).
2. Add the rosé sauce.
3. Separately, deep fry the teok for 30 seconds at 365°F.
4. When the sauce starts to get hot, add the teok and plate.
5. Garnish with some touches of black pepper, sliced perilla leaves, and cheese on top. Gooseberries are optional.

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Kat Thompson is a senior staff writer of food & drink at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @katthompsonn.