The only rice cakes I see in America are those Quaker Rice Cakes in the supermarket that come in foolish (in my opinion) flavors such as sour cream and onion or chocolate. The only reason I say so is because I’ve had the real deal before, and let me just say: those Quaker Rice Cakes don’t come close. The only catch is, my favorite rice cakes are located all the way in Korea.
The lady who makes these cakes has been in the exact same spot for over twenty years now, and it’s a one woman show. She’s tucked away, literally, in a corner. Before you enter the market doors, she’s all the way end of the wall with her tiny red plastic table and small grill with just two plastic seats. I have no idea how she can possibly cook in that small space, but somehow it works for her. You could think this lady would have no customers because of her awful location. But once word gets around, everyone wants to go.
The rice cakes she serves are long and have an opaque white color to them. You can eat them as they are, plain, or add condiments, or enjoy them toasted. I prefer the toasted version, because it adds more variation in texture as the rice cakes turn slightly caramelized. For condiments, you have the choice of hot or mild. The hot condiment is a Korean fermented paste made from chili, salt, and an assortment of beans. The mild condiment is a mixture of the hotter paste, with the addition of ketchup (this one’s much sweeter.)
You receive your cakes on a plastic plate, and eat them on a skewer. Smothered with condiments, the result is chewy and sticky, almost like gum and caramel mixed together.
At my favorite spot in Korea, everything from the rice cakes to the condiments is homemade. The rice cakes are a mildly sweet and come in all different shapes and sizes. And you can actually taste all the layers of flavor in the condiments – everything from the garlic to the salt to the fermented beans. Each bite is a new experience, a new taste to discover.