If you ask anyone who's been to Seattle's Joule restaurant what to order, chances are their eyes will go a little blurry and their lashes will flutter heavenward. "Those rice cakes," they'll gush, with something between a shudder and a squeal. And at Joule, where Seattle chef couple Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi mix Korean staples with flavors from all over the globe, it's hard to pick a dish that's more iconic of their techniques.
They start with spicy rice cakes, which is classic Korean. They switch it up by adding homemade chorizo with deep Spanish flavor, and then twist it by serving the rice cakes a little crunchy, instead of soft, with an extra-spicy sauce. It's often the first recipe people turn to when they open Rachel's new book, My Rice Bowl: Korean Cooking Outside the Lines, which I co-authored. There's a lot more in the book, but I can't blame folks for blatant favoritism of page 251. It's one of my favorite recipes, too.
But who are we kidding? We can't all make chorizo from scratch on a weeknight, and it takes a bit of advance planning (like, a week of it) to ferment the mustard greens that give the rice cakes a bit of sour funk. So while I revel in making the book's version of the recipe when time permits, I've also learned to hack it when I need to, using store-bought chorizo (if you can't find bulk, just take chorizo links out of their casings) and fermented mustard greens, which I find in the refrigerated section of my local Asian grocery store (often under their Japanese name, takana zuke). I love that I've gotten used to having rice cakes and mustard greens in the fridge and chorizo in the freezer, so "rice cake night" has become as natural and easy as spaghetti night in our house.
Oh, and that sauce there at the bottom? In Rachel Yang's restaurant kitchens, the cooks call it "crack sauce," because it really seems that addictive. If I were you, I'd make double the sauce you need, and use it as a condiment — mixed into mayo for slathering on sandwiches or burgers, drizzled over eggs, or served as a dip with fried chicken (or chicken fingers, if that's how you roll). Or even better, smuggle it into the back of your fridge and wait a few days. I know you'll want to make this again.
Quicker Spicy Rice Cakes
For the rice cakes:
4 tablespoons canola oil, plus more as needed
1 pound fresh Mexican chorizo, casings removed
1 cup fermented Chinese mustard greens, finely chopped
1 cup water
4 medium scallions (green parts only), thinly sliced
For the sweet and spicy all-purpose sauce:
1/2 cup Korean chile paste, also known as gochujang
1/2 cup mirin
1/2 cup sake
3 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
1 teaspoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon finely grated garlic
Soak the rice cakes: Put the rice cakes into a large bowl, breaking them up as you go if they seem stuck together. Add water to cover and let sit for about 1 hour. Meanwhile, make the sauce.
Make the sauce: In a medium bowl, place the chili paste, mirin, and sake and whisk to combine. Add the tamari or soy sauce, ginger, and garlic, and whisk again until smooth. Store in the refrigerator, covered, until ready to use.
Cook and serve the rice cakes: Drain the rice cakes. Decide whether you want to cook the dish in two batches by cooking in two pans at once, or by cooking in one pan, cleaning it out quickly, and repeating with the remaining ingredients.
For cooking in one pan in batches: Heat a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil, then add 1/2 of the chorizo on one side of the pan and press into a 3/4-inch-thick patty. Add 1/2 the rice cakes to the rest of the pan, breaking up the rice cakes with your hands as you drop them in. (Depending on the size of your pan, you may need to add a bit more oil. There should be enough oil that you see it bubbling around the edges of the ingredients in the pan.) Cook undisturbed until the chorizo is cooked on the bottom side and the rice cakes have begun to brown lightly, about 3 minutes. Toss all the ingredients, breaking up the rice cakes and chorizo a little with a wooden spoon and adding more oil, if necessary, to keep a thin layer across the bottom of the pan. Cook 3 minutes more.
Add 1/2 the mustard greens, about 1/2 the sauce, and 1/2 cup of the water, stir to combine, and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened, the chorizo is cooked through, and the rice cakes begin to separate from each other. Divide between two Asian-style noodle bowls and serve immediately, garnished with half of the green onions. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.
For cooking in two pans at once: Follow the above directions, but cook everything in 2 pans at the same time.
Korean rice cakes: These oblong-shaped coins made from rice can be found in vacuum-sealed packages in the refrigerated noodle section of Asian grocery stores. They are in fact symbols of money in Korea.
Make ahead: The sauce can be made and stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.
Gluten-free: To make this recipe gluten-free, make sure the sake is gluten-free and use tamari.
Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Excerpted and adapted from My Rice Bowl by Rachel Yang and Jess Thomson by permission of Sasquatch Books. All rights reserved. (c)2017.