Tteokbokki, topokki: Whatever you call it, it’s good!
In March 2009, JoongAng Daily wrote an article about the South Korean government’s international research and development campaign to promote tteokbokki (떡볶이) as the next international fusion sensation. The annual Tteok Fair, which was held in May, was part of this orchestrated effort as well.
Yet with all the confusion over romanization methods for Korean, the campaign has come up with an alternate spelling for the spicy dish: topokki. It’s supposedly easier for foreigners to pronounce without sounding like they’re stuttering.
The Korean government wants to encourage more rice consumption and to help Korean rice farmers create an international market. One the face of it, this sounds strange in a country that imports rice because it doesn’t grow enough to keep up with demand. It sounds like the Korean equivalent of the “Got Milk” campaign .
Many in the Korean and Korean ex-pat blogosphere reacted with skepticism to the tteokbokki push. However, within a few days of JoongAng Daily‘s article about this effort, an ex-pat from Yeongcheon, South Korea, who goes by the name Bigbear Ron, posted his own Korean fusion recipe mixing garae tteok (가래떡), which are the fat cylindrical rice noodles needed for tteokbokki, with tomatoes and mozzarella cheese.
Because tteok (떡) is relatively bland (like pasta), these thick rice noodles can be used as a substitute in many pasta recipes.
If you do a blog search on Google, you will find other creative mixes as well. Even the New York Times published a recipe for tteokbokki this year. Here are some other variations out in the blogosphere.
Maybe the Korean government was onto something.