Korean Food from a Different Point of View: Ddukbokki

Welcome to a new monthly feature on Life’s an Adventure 2! Sumaiya will be writing a once-a-month article exploring Korean food in Toronto from a different point of view. Her posts will appear on the third Wednesday of each month. Please give a warm welcome to Life’s an Adventure’s first featured writer, Sumaiya! If you want to know more about our featured writers or how to become one, please click here.

I became interested in Korean culture during the summer of 2010 while studying for my LSAT. Not sure about the LSAT but within few weeks, I knew a lot about the Korean entertainment industry. Through watching all the shows, be it reality, variety, drama, or movies, I would find myself drooling over the food shown in them. Now being a Muslim, there are several things I can and cannot eat, which is not helpful when trying to indulge in ‘foreign’ food. I am sure that many individuals, be it Muslims, Jains, Vegetarians or Vegans, have the same issue. So thanks to Cindy, I will be writing a monthly post about food that individuals who love Korean food but have food restrictions can dive into.

Image courtesy of Sumaiya

As you can tell from the picture above, the first food I am going to be talking about is ddukbokki, or spicy rice cake. Every Korean restaurant in Toronto has a different way of making and serving this delicious street food. I may have exhausted every restaurant near or about Spadina who serve this. Personally, I am not too much of a fan of spiciness, which is why I love it when restaurants have an option for how much spice you prefer. Mind you, not every restaurant will be kind enough to give you that option. The first time I tried it, I may have had a fit. Literally! I felt as if my mouth would melt and no matter how much water I gulped down the spice would not go away. This was last summer and the last time in a long while I would try Korean food.

In January of this year, I was dragged by one of my friends to another Korean restaurant  by Spadina and Dundas (there are few of them there and I’ll recommend almost all of them). Knowing that I had only few options to what I could eat, I decided to order ddukbokki again. Thankfully, this time around, they bothered to ask how much of spiciness I would like. So far, I have been talking about the dish but have not really explained it. Ddukbokki is a popular South Korean street food, which surprisingly before the Korean War used to be a ‘royal’ dish.

I personally discovered this dish while watching ‘Thank you for waking me up’, a SS501 reality show. Kim Hyun Joong (popular for his role in ‘Boys over Flowers’) woke up early in the morning to make a breakfast dish for his fellow members. Now, you will have to watch the show to see the result of his cooking but the dish certainly made me crave it. Different Korean restaurants will have a different way of serving it – some with side dishes (different kinds), some with boiled egg, while others may include dumplings in it. The latter is not something I prefer since dumplings usually have meat in them and for some reason, it is hard for some people in those restaurants to understand why you can’t eat it. To avoid problems and explanations, I have never gone back to the ones who serve the dish with anything meat related (besides fish of course).

Image courtesy of Sumaiya

Ddukbokki consists of hot paste made from chilli peppers, vegetables, rice cake and fish cake. I like the ones with less fish cake just because I like rice cake better. I haven’t come across a place where they don’t add fish cake in the dish. Though, if I do, I’ll surely add it to my next post. I would like to do a separate post about the side dishes served with Korean dishes since every restaurant has a different set of side dishes that they like to serve. If you are looking for a nice Korean restaurant to try this dish or any other ones, I would recommend going to places east on Dundas (Spadina). There are two quite good Korean places, which have some of the nice atmospheres and friendly staff. I forgot to take pictures of the inside but next time, I will remember to.

What are some of your favourite dishes? Is there a dish you would recommend I try out? Though, do remember that not everyone can eat meat or fish.

We want to hear what you think!

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