Personal Taste: Jessie Zhai on nostalgic recipes during COVID

Personal Taste: Nostalgic cooking during COVID

In our final podcast episode, a broadcast and digital journalism senior talks about rediscovering childhood dishes during the pandemic.
Published: December 20, 2021
Personal Taste Podcast: Episode 4 with Jessie Zhai

In the final episode of Personal Taste, the Fashion and Design Society president and creative director Jessie Zhai talks about learning to cook during the pandemic and the dish she has been most excited to share with her loved ones. After finding rice cakes in a local market, Zhai was inspired to cook tteok-bokki, a dish she had during her childhood in Beijing.

Tteok-bokki is a Korean street food that Zhai told host, Abby Fritz, is the first recipe she cooked that felt authentic to her memories of having the dish in the past and is quick to cook, which is why she likes making it for friends.

Zhai is a broadcast and digital journalism senior at the Newhouse School who will be graduating in the spring. During her time at Syracuse, she has done work as videographer, photographer, and art director for the campus club FADS. She has also expanded her cooking interest, which she took up while quarantining on South campus, to include baking.

To learn more about Zhai and her tteok-bokki listen above to the last episode of Personal Taste, which is available on Spotify and through The NewsHouse website. Transcripts of every episode will also be made available for access.

Jessie Zhai’s Tteok-bokki


1 pound rice cakes (cylinder-shaped)

½ pound fish balls

1 yellow onion

2 Tbsps Gochujang paste

⅓ cup sugar

Handful of cheese of choice (optional)


  1. Slice the onion while heating up oil in a pan over low heat. Once sliced, add onions to the pan and stir occasionally until they are soft.
  2. Add rice cakes to the pan until semi-soft, stir often to avoid sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  3. Mix the gochujang paste, sugar, 2 cups of water together then add to the pan. Turn up the heat to medium.
  4. Cut fish cakes into bite-size pieces and set them aside.
  5. Once the mixture has started to thicken add the fish cakes to the pan. Add water to the mixture as needed.
  6. Continue to stir the mixture until the rice cakes are softened then turn the heat off.
  7. Optionally, once finished cooking add cheese of choice to the top and stir until melted into the mixture.