Thursday, December 23, 2010

What Koreans eat on New Year’s day

Let’s talk about what Koreans eat on New Year’s Day. The typical day of the New Year starts with breakfast. Breakfast consists of a rice cake soup called ddok-kuk (떡국). Ddok-kuk (떡국) is a soup made of beef broth with thinly shaped oval rice cakes. Actually, I’m not sure why Americans call ddok-kuk (떡국) a soup with rice cakes. It’s not really a rice cake per say, but rather a type of dough made out of rice. Anyway, some of the ingredients in ddok-kuk (떡국) are bits of seaweed, an egg that has been cooked and thinly sliced, and some seasame seeds. The beef broth also contains some soy sauce as well. On top of that, it’s not unusual to see beef cut into small chunks mixed in with some green onions.

This is optional, but sometimes people put mandu (만두) in ddok-kuk (떡국). Mandu (만두) means dumpling in Korean. Mandus (만두) can be prepared by frying them, or boiling them in hot water. The mandu (만두) used in ddok-kuk (떡국) is boiled. The fried mandu are called gunmandu (근만두). Usually gunmandu (근만두) is crispy and dipped in soy sauce. The kind of mandu (만두) made in boiling water is called mulmandu (물만두) or mandu-kuk (만두국).

ddok-kuk (떡국)
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The insides of the mandu (만두) vary by preference. I like to put noodles in my mandu (만두) with some pork and green onions. Kimchi mandu (김치 만두) is also very popular as well. I’ve also heard of a seafood mandu (만두) with crab meat and vegetable mandu (만두) with green herbs. Honestly, there are so many variaties out there, and different kinds are being invented every year.

That’s the best part of mandu (만두). You can put whatever your heart desires. All mandus (만두) despite what’s inside, are made of a flour-based exterior. The flour is mixed with water and rolled into a dough. Then the dough is thinly shaved into round circles. The ingredients are put in the dough and the dough is sealed with some egg yolk. Of course, you can just buy mandu (만두) at a store. (It’s much easier!)

The question I often get is, why do Korean people eat ddok-kuk (떡국) on New Year’s Day? The answer to that is two fold. One, ddok-kuk (떡국) is believed to be healthy and to purify the body. The white rice cakes are white and the color white is supposed to symbolize the purity of the food. Second, it’s a tradition and people have been carrying out this tradition for ages. That’s it for today, but I’ve got some more posts coming up on New Years celebrations, so don’t miss out!

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