Posts Tagged ‘rice cakes’

Spicy Pork Sausage & Rice Cakes

spicy pork sausage with udon

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I don’t love rice cakes unless they’ve been crisped up in a hot cast-iron skillet. There’s something about the (for lack of a better word) mouthfeel of boiled rice cakes that doesn’t appeal to me. For that reason alone I wasn’t looking forward to the spicy pork sausage and rice cakes. In theory the recipe sounded delicious and I was ready to change how I felt about rice cakes, just like I changed how I felt about kimchi.

mise-en-place for spicy pork sausage ragu

The recipe is a riff on spicy Sichuan food, with ma po tofu as the starting point. There isn’t actually much tofu in this dish, but it is spicy, even though I toned down the chili peppers to a quarter of what the recipe called for.

The spicy pork sausage isn’t really sausage in the traditional sense of sausage with a casing, instead it’s ground pork pan-fried and mixed with dried red chilies, garlic, ssämjang, sichuan peppercorns, and kochukaru. There are also some roasted onions and sugar to add sweet to the heat. Chopped gai-lan adds some crunch and just a touch of tofu is stirred in to make the sauce a bit more creamy.

spicy sauce

The spicy pork sausage ragu was delicious just out of the pan. It had a bit of a nostalgic flavour to it for me, because growing up, we didn’t eat beef so all of our meat sauces were made with ground pork. Ground pork is flavourful, juicy, and lighter tasting than beef.

rice cakes

I was super happy with the spicy pork sausage, but then I had to add the boiled rice cakes. I really truly gave it a go, but after eating two pieces I couldn’t stomach the thought of eating more. It’s a texture thing. I’m sure if I grew up eating boiled rice cakes I would love this dish.

rice cakes with spicy pork sausage ragu

There was one thing that made the dish slightly more palatable for me: crispy shallots. Chang tells you to buy packaged Chinese fried shallots, but I happen to have a container full in my fridge that my mother-in-law made for me. She knows I love them and one day she gave me a giant container. It was a great present! I love love love crispy shallots and really, they make anything taste better. They add crunch and a delicious mild onion taste.

crispy fried shallots

Alas the crispy shallots where not enough to make me eat my whole plate. I picked out the rice cakes, saved the ragu, and mixed it with udon, topping it with crispy shallots. Now there’s a chewy carbohydrate that I love! The spicy pork sausage tasted great with udon.

spicy pork sausage & rice cakes

Would I make this dish again? No, not in way it was intended in the book. As much as I hoped otherwise, the rice cakes were disappointing.The ragu I would make again: juicy ground pork, spicy Sichuan flavour, crunchy greens. I would skip out on the tofu though; it didn’t add much. I imagine this would taste fantastic on rice, which I’m going to try because I have a lot of spicy pork sausage left.

Roasted Rice Cakes

roasted rice cakes

Rice cakes are gelatinous, chewy, and a bit of an acquired taste, but mostly an acquired texture. Rice cakes don’t have a lot of flavour on their own since they are made from rice. Usually Korean rice cakes are found in soups or in dok boki, a Classic Korean dish that tosses boiled rice cakes with a red spicy sauce.

I’ve had dok boki in Korean restaurants before, and even though I like the chewy rice cake texture, eating more than one or two of them isn’t really my thing. After a while they start to feel too heavy, too gelatinous. I think it’s the monotony of the texture of the dish; there are no real contrasts.

raw rice cake sticks

Roasted rice cakes are different because of the roasting. Roasting them in oil in a cast iron skillet crisps up the rice cake giving it a toasty, crunchy outside and a soft, chewy inside. It’s an addictive combination and much better than boiled. Mike and I tried some of the roasted cakes right out of the pan and they were delicious just like that.

roasting in a cast-iron skillet

bowl of crispy rice cake sticks

The cakes were delicious plain, but they were even better when you tossed them in that signature red sauce. Chang’s sauce is made up of Korean Red Dragon sauce, roasted onions, mirin, and ramen broth.

Sweet and spicy, crisp and chewy, this dish is answers all my complaints about the monotony of dok boki. If my version is this good, I’m definitely ordering this when I visit Noodle Bar again!

bowl of crispy rice cake sticks cut up

roasted rice cakes tossed in sauce with sesame seeds

Note: Rice cakes are called mochi in Japanese and they do an awesome grilled mochi of their own: isobe maki mochi. Mochi is grilled until puffy and golden brown, wrapped up in seaweed and drizzled with shoyu. It’s quick and tasty, if you don’t have time to make all the Momofuku sauces.