Last Updated: November 24, 2021
There are few things us Singaporeans love more than food that’s worth the money—that means free-flow, all-you-can-eat buffets, and generous set meals worthy of donning flowy dresses to hide the food baby that surely follows. The Korean food enthusiast in me perked up when this idea was pitched by my colleague, Rachel, and after many chewy rice cakes, I’m ready to tell you the best place to go for tteokbokki so good, it’s worth all the calories.
Tteokbokki is a simmered rice cake that’s one of Korea’s most popular street foods. It can be tossed into bubbling stews and soups or eaten as a snack after they are deep-fried. Korean food is plentiful on our sunny island, but I’ve called a tteokbokki showdown so that you know exactly where to get the best bang (and rice cakes) for your buck.
Today’s contenders are Dookki, 90 Minutes, and Red Holic. Of the three, 90 Minutes and Dooki are free-flow tteokbokki buffets, whereas Redholic offers a two pax set menu with portions so big we couldn’t even finish half of them.
For this comparison, four variations of tteokboki were assessed—original, sweet potato, cheese, and just because it made us smile when we ate it, the “oddball” rice cake.
I’m a born and raised Singaporean who still gets lost in Suntec City’s many wings. Whatever cuisine, dish, or snack you’re in the mood for, Suntec City probably has it, and that includes a free-flow tteokbokki buffet at Dookki. They offer a special Lunch Price (S$15.80++) if your WFH schedule is more flexible, and a regular Adult buffet for S$18.80++. And there you go—all the tteokbokki you could possibly eat within one and a half hours.
We opted for the spicy sauce, though I would’ve enjoyed a stronger kick. Don’t get me wrong, this was a pretty fragrant pot of soup that I enjoyed, but this one would’ve scored more points if its taste matched its red-hot appearance
I personally enjoy tteokbokki best when they’re chewy, so I made sure that these weren’t allowed to simmer for too long before I fished them out and took a bite. I found that these lacked the bouncy, mochi-like texture I was looking for, and ended up on the denser side, not unlike udon.
Their Cheese tteokbokki definitely scored higher than the Original. Filled with mozzarella, this was more decadent, especially when the savoury flavour complimented the spicy soup base we cooked it in. I’d give Dookki an extra shout out because I managed to execute a successful cheese pull—we ended up ordering three extra servings of this since we couldn’t get enough. It goes without saying that this was the best of all.
The bright amethyst-coloured Sweet Potato tteokbokki was fished out next. My main gripe with this was its size—it’s more petite than the Original tteokbokki, which meant that the sweet potato filling felt too minimal to properly enjoy. I was expecting something with a little more substance, and this one felt a bit underwhelming.
It’s just a regular tteokbokki, but just in a different shape. They’re thicker than the regular rice cakes, which means that they take a while more to cook. I learnt the hard way that the uneven shape makes it harder to cook them to the desired consistency all the way through.
Located a stone’s throw from SOTA at Rendezvous Hotel, 90 Minutes offers free-flow tteokbokki buffets all days of the week, from S$15.90++ per adult, with special discounts for students, children, and senior citizens. It’ll be the perfect way to indulge in a good meal with your family as the year ends.
Their Volcano sauce base was the best of all three—we opted for something on the sweet side instead of a spicy base like Dookki’s. I’m usually someone whose penchant for sweet food remains wholly with desserts, but I will make an exception for this forever.
If I had to pick my favourite no-frills no-fuss Original tteokbokki from the three, it would be from 90 Minutes. They’ve nailed the soft yet chewy texture I was looking for and even had the added bonus of absorbing the savoury sauce. You get exactly what you want—a good ol’ rice cake, and that was good enough for me.
I was extremely hyped up for this, especially since I had such a great time with Dookki’s, but 90 Minutes’ Cheese tteokbokki was a huge letdown. It retained a pretty solid shape for the first few minutes in the soup but ended up splitting apart. The cheese ended up leaking out, and we were left with a disintegrated mess, literally.
By the time we fished it out, the entire tteokbokki was completely unrecognisable, having split into little pieces. Needless to say, there was no cheese pull.
The Sweet Potato tteokbokki at 90 Minutes definitely did better than Dookki’s in terms of size—these were heftier and boasted of the same chewy texture as the Original tteokbokki. I found it flavourful and lightly sweet, and my only gripe was that there wasn’t enough of that delightful filling. It’s an admirable effort nonetheless, but one that satisfied me enough to plan a revisit.
I found that the whole problem with unevenly cooked tteokbokki remained constant for both 90 Minutes and Dookki, though the former scored better because their rice cakes managed to absorb the richness of the savoury soup. If you’re just looking for a good plain rice cake, then the novelty of these uniquely shaped ones might not wow you quite as much.
Red Holic offers varying set meals for two to three pax which means that you have to make sure that you’ve got your game face on before you dig into this. Their set meals include various meat toppings such as Beef Brisket (S$36.80), Pork Cutlet (S$34.80), and more.
I’m not going to lie, as much as I do enjoy spicy food, I found it overwhelming to eat it so many times in a row. Here at Red Holic, we opted for our accompanying sauce to be the creamy Carbonara—not the first pairing you’d associate with tteokbokki, but I stand by my decision.
As far as texture goes, Red Holic did an admirable job, though their Original tteokbokki didn’t absorb the flavours of the creamy Carbonara sauce. It held its own perhaps a little too well, and I have no complaints. The tteokbokki was the biggest in size out of the three; ideal if you’re one who prefers something with a more substantial mouthfeel.
After the stellar performance by Dooki, everything else kind of paled in comparison—though not as much as 90 Minutes. It stayed intact for the entirety of the cooking process, though it lacked the cheese pull I was so excited for. I will admit that the Cheese tteokbokki might be too overwhelming especially with the creamy Carbonara, so if you’re a fan of spicy food, the hot kick will be welcome.
Red Holic wins in the Sweet Potato tteokbokki category, and that’s for sure. The sweet potato filling was undoubtedly generous inside every single rice cake and boasted of a bouncy, QQ mochi-like texture that had me wishing it was a buffet just so I could have ten more.
Unlike Dookki and 90 Minutes with their uniquely shaped tteokbokki, Red Holic’s reminded me a lot of udon—it wasn’t as chewy as a regular rice cake due to its thinner shape. It’s not really what you’d expect when digging into your meal, and if I had to pick, I’d choose the flower-shaped rice cakes in a heartbeat.
I don’t think I’ll be eating any more Korean food for the rest of the year. I’ve had more tteokbokki in these three meals than I’ve ever eaten in my life. But do I have any regrets? Not at all.
Each restaurant had their pros and cons, though if I had to pick one to revisit, my money would go to 90 Minutes. I found it the most value-for-money, especially if you make a trip down for lunch and get your fill of rice cakes.
The way the broth’s flavour was absorbed during the cooking process was a huge win in my books, and who knows? Maybe I’ll get my cheese pull the next time I’m there.
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