Walking [Tteok - Korean Rice Cakes and Brussels Sprouts in Gochujang Chili Sauce]

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When I was a little girl, my Grandpa and I used to go walking. For some reason, it was always in the winter. Or at least those are the moments that ring loudest. That was our thing. If I was lucky, we would cross two bridges. The grating of the catwalk walkway on the lift-bridge over the canal was barely there. Sometimes we would have to wait for a boat to go under, and we would stop and have a piece of candy. That was always my favourite part. Grandpa was very patient with me — trudging along, huddled in my ’80s colour-blocked hand-me-down snowsuit. He was always a fast walker,  just like my dad — just like me.

korean gochujang tteok with brussel sprouts  korean brussels sprouts 5  korean brussels sprouts3

It has been hard to let that space behind my eyelids flit back to these walks lately. My grandpa has been struggling, barely walking at all. It started with a flare up of sciatica (an extremely painful chronic nerve problem) in his leg, which kept him sedentary for most of the summer. Then an arthritis flare-up in the same leg this fall kept him down almost completely. He grew weak. When I saw my Grandpa in October, he nearly fell three times, even though he was using a walker. My private moments that weekend were consumed by anxieties and tears. This is not my Grandpa.

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Grandpa has been walking with a walker or a cane, even in the house. At Christmas he was doing much better than he was in October, but he was still unable to leave the house by himself. Then I get a call the other day from Grandma about Christmas cards that got lost in the mail.  She dropped it casually — Grandpa is now walking in the house without his cane.

Yes! Yes! And yes again!

Tteok – Korean Rice Cakes and Brussels Sprouts in Gochujang Chili Sauce

4 cups brussels sprouts, washed, trimmed, and cut in half
400 g rice cakes, trimmed into 1/3-inch pieces
3 1/2 tbsp. gochujang chili paste
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. mirin
1 tbsp. sesame oil
2 tbsp. honey
vegetable oil, as needed

Heat the wet ingredients to dissolve. Stir together. This is your sauce.

Heat oil in a large pan until very hot (almost smoking). Add brussels sprouts, cut side down. Let them cook, undisturbed, until it smells a bit like popcorn (that’s them charring). Once they’ve charred a bit, start moving them around with a wooden spoon. Add a small pinch of salt to soften them. Cook to al dente. Reduce to medium heat. If rice cakes are fresh, add to brussels sprouts right away. If hard, microwave for 30 seconds on high, or blanch in boiling water for 30-40 seconds. Add rice cakes and sauce to brussels sprouts. Stir constantly until everything is glazed.

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