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Roasted Rice Cakes with Korean Red Dragon Sauce

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Ingredients

For the Roasted Onions

  • 3 medium, yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • large pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

For the Korean Red Dragon Sauce

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup ssamjang (Korean fermented bean and chile sauce, available at most Asian supermarkets near its more well known sibling gochujang; usually comes in a green container)
  • 1 tablespoon usukuchi soy sauce (light soy sauce, not to be confused with dark soy sauce)
  • 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Asian sesame oil

For the Roasted Rice Cakes

  • 1/4 cup mirin
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup Korean Red Dragon sauce (from recipe above)
  • 1/4 cup roasted onions (from recipe above)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 14 ounces rice cake sticks
  • 1/2 cup sliced scallions (greens and whites)

Instructions

For the Roasted Onions

  • This is probably the most time-intensive part of the recipe, so I recommend you make the onions beforehand. They'll keep for a week or more in the fridge in a tupperware container. Start by heating the oil in a 10 or 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until the oil is very, very hot but not smoking. Add the onions to the pan — they will be piled up high, probably to the rim, and let them cook undisturbed for 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Carefully toss the onions and, while doing so, season them with the salt. Now you've got 50 or so minutes of onion cookery ahead of you. For the first 15 minutes, you want the onions at the bottom of the pan to be slowly but steadily taking on color as they sweat out their liquid. The onions above them are helping this happen with their weight and gently pressing down the onions below. Do NOT press down on the onions with a spatula to try and speed up this process. Just turn the whole pile of onions over on itself every 3 or 4 minutes so that the same onions don't keep on cooking.
  • After the mass of onions in the pan has significantly reduced in volume, turn the heat to medium-low and stir and turn the onions every 10 minutes or so to make sure that they don't start to stick or burn at any point. Slow and steady wins the race — you want the onions to soften and sweeten, but not to dry out. This should take around 50 minutes. The onions will be ready when they are sweet with a deep roasted flavor and texture that's almost mushy, but not quite. Use them straightaway, or let them cool and store to use at a later time.

For the Korean Red Dragon Sauce

  • Bring the water and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes, then stir in the ssamjang to dissolve it. Stir in the soy sauce, vinegar, and sesame oil and taste the sauce. No one flavor should stand out, but all should be present and accounted for. Adjust as necessary.

For the Roasted Rice Cakes

  • First, make the sauce: combine mirin and chicken stock in a saucepan large enough to accommodate the rice cakes later and put it on the stove over high heat. Boil to reduce until lightly thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the red dragon sauce, turn the heat down to medium, a nd reduce the sauce to a glossy consistency, 6 to 7 minutes. Stir in the roasted onions. Cover and keep warm over very low heat until the rice cakes are ready.
  • While the sauce is reducing, heat a large (at least 12-inch) cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add the oil to the pan, and just when it's about to smoke, add the rice cakes. They should sizzle when they hit the oil, at which you can drop the heat down to medium. Sear the rice cakes for about 3 minutes per side until they're a light golden brown. Transfer the rice cakes to a cutting board and cut them into fifths.
  • Bring the sauce back up to a boil and toss the rice cakes in it just for a few seconds, until they're evenly coated. Sprinkle them with the sesame seeds and toss again, then transfer to a serving bowl. Garnish with the scallions and serve hot.

Notes

Adapted from Momofuku