It’s was Lunar New Year this weekend AND the start of the 2nd week of the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, so naturally we have Korean food on the brain. One of the most important foods for the Lunar New Year – called Seollal in Korea – is Yaksik. Yaksik is a sweet rice dessert studded with jujubes, honey and chestnuts. Not only is the dessert tasty, but it is touted for its medicinal properties. The name “Yaksik” translates to “medicinal food,” (“Yak” meaning medicine, “Sik” meaning food). Think of it as a fruitier, healthier version of rice pudding. Here are recipes for Yaksik from Kimchimari (seen below) and Maangchi.
This year, Lunar New Year falls on a Friday! If you will be celebrating Lunar New Year in Korea the festivities are called Seollal, and you can expect a crazy amount of food and festivities. We covered one of the most traditional Seollal dishes previously on ETW, tteokguk (rice cake soup). However, that only scratches the surface. Most large Korean meals come with an assortment of small dishes called Banchan, and the Seollal table is no exception. However, to the uninitiated, the array of banchan presented alongside a meal can be overwhelming. Fortunately, the internet is brimming with banchan guides: Lucky Peach, Crazy Korean Cooking, Zen Kimchi, Thrillist and HuffPo, to name a few. Personally, my favorite banchan are japchae, radish kimchi and toasted seaweed. I love the concept that every meal comes with an additional portion of delicious, tiny dishes. Do you have a favorite banchan?
Banchan at Gogi in Chicago
Happy Lunar New Year! In the past I’ve highlighted some traditional dishes from around Asia, and now we’re on to Korea, where the Lunar New Year is called Seollal. Tteokguk (or ddukguk) – rice cake soup – is probably one of the most recognizable Seollal dishes. Eating a bowl of this soup symbolizes growing another year older, as well as wishes for a long, healthy life. The key to the soup are the tasty dumpling-like rice cakes (which can be found in other Korean dishes with variations like spicy sauce – ddukbokki). There are many variations on the soup, with different types of stock, so here a a few versions, from Crazy Korean Cooking, My Korean Eats and Chow Divine.
Rice Cake Soup by Tony Song