Rice Cakes with Sweet Soy Sauce

MAKES: 4 servings

TIME: 30 minutes

These sauted or stir-fried rice cakes are sweet, salty, spicy, and addicting. I love them spicy with lots of Chile-Sesame Paste, Korean Style, or any other hot sauce.

1 pound rice cakes, sliced

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon dark sesame oil

1 tablespoon sugar

3 tablespoons Thai-Style Chile Paste, or to taste

2 tablespoons neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn

Freshly ground black pepper

Chopped scallion for garnish

Toasted sesame seeds for garnish

If the rice cakes are frozen, soak them in a large bowl of cold water for a few minutes until they’re thawed a bit, then cook them in a pot of boiling water until soft, about 5 minutes; drain and reserve some of the cooking liquid.

Mix together the soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, and chile-sesame paste and set aside.

Put the neutral oil in a large nonstick or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the rice cakes, soy sauce mixture, and a sprinkle of the black pepper; cook until the rice cakes are coated in the sauce, 2 to 3 minutes. If the pan dries out, add a couple tablespoons of the reserved cooking liquid. Sprinkle with the scallion and sesame seeds and serve immediately.

Variations

Rice Cakes with Sweet Soy Sauce and Vegetables. A quick one-pan dinner: Prepare about 11/2 cups of any combination of thinly sliced shiitakes, onions, carrots, or bell peppers. Add to the hot pan in Step 2; cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Proceed with the recipe, adding more neutral oil as needed.

Rice Cakes with Kimchi. Spicy, of course: Omit the sesame oil, sugar, and chile-sesame paste. In Step 3, add 1 cup or more Kimchi a minute or so after the rice cakes.

Rice Cakes with Shaoxing Wine. Shaoxing is similar to dry sherry, which is a good substitute: Reduce the soy sauce to 1 tablespoon and omit the sesame oil, sugar, and chile-sesame paste. In Step 2, add 1 tablespoon minced garlic, 1/2 cup bamboo shoots, and 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine.

Braised Rice Cakes. The rice cakes thicken the liquid as they cook, creating a stick-to-your-ribs dish: Add 3 cups stock, dashi, or water and up to 2 cups whatever thinly sliced vegetables you like and/or cubes of tofu. Omit the sugar and neutral oil. Put the stock in a pot and bring to a boil; add the remaining ingredients and cook, at a steady bubble, until the rice cakes are soft (and the vegetables are cooked, if you’re using any). Garnish with the scallions and sesame seeds.

Rice or Cellophane Noodles with Sweet Soy Sauce. If you like, add vegetables as in the first variation: Substitute 8 to 12 ounces rice vermicelli, rice sticks, or cellophane noodles for the rice cakes. Drain the noodles and immediately add them to the pan; you may need additional oil. Proceed with the recipe.