Rice-cake soup re­mains Se­ol­lal sta­ple

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - TASTE -

TTEOKGUK, that steam­ing bowl of hot broth stud­ded with slices of white rice cake, is a clas­sic Se­ol­lal sta­ple.

“In Korea, plac­ing a bowl of tteokguk on the an­ces­tral ta­ble for rites on Lu­nar New Year’s morn­ing is tra­di­tion,” said Dadam ex­ec­u­tive chef Jeong Jae-deok.

Even at Dadam, a Korean fine din­ing restau­rant lo­cated in Seoul’s Cheong­dam-dong, Jeong makes a point of serv­ing rice cake soup on both New Year’s Day and Se­ol­lal in lieu of the cus­tom­ary por­ridge that ac­com­pa­nies meals.

The sym­bolic sig­nif­i­cance of tteokguk, Jeong went on to ex­plain, stems in part from garaet­teok, a long strand of rice cake that is sliced into ovals or cir­cles to make the clas­sic dish.

Ac­cord­ing to Jeong, white garaet­teok sig­ni­fies “pu­rity and longevity”.

“So it sym­bol­ises a long and healthy life,” Jeong, 36, elab­o­rated, also di­vulging an old say­ing: “‘One needs to eat a bowl of tteokguk on Se­ol­lal morn­ing in or­der to grow a year older.’”

Pros­per­ity and good luck, Haap owner-chef Sin Yong-il said, are also sym­bols as­so­ci­ated with tteokguk.

Ac­cord­ing to Sin, who crafts ar­ti­sanal rice cakes from his bou­tique in Cheong­dam-dong, garaet­teok was ini­tially cut into coin-shaped cir­cles and sig­ni­fied money and good for­tune.

Sin, who is mak­ing tteokguk rice cakes at Haap for the first time this year, opted to craft dainty coin-shaped slices him­self, which he feels are aes­thet­i­cally pleas­ing and give a “clean and mod­est” feel to the dish.

For Sin, there are cer­tain guide­lines to craft­ing rice cakes for tteokguk.

The vet­eran rice cake chef demon­strated by pick­ing up a small, round, slightly translu­cent tteok, nib­bling at it to check if it had been sea­soned with the right amount of salt.

Then he showed how af­ter the rice cake had been added to the soup, it still re­tained its shape and chewi­ness in­stead of be­com­ing too mushy or gooey.

“If it bloats and loses its orig­i­nal shape then some­thing is wrong,” Sin, 40, said.

How the garaet­teok is made also mat­ters, said Sin, ex­plain­ing that it should be passed through the rice cake press three times. Why? Ac­cord­ing to Sin, by re­peat­edly ex­tract­ing garaet­teok one can get rice cake that is dense in tex­ture, so that when sliced there are no holes or gaps on the sur­face, just smooth, finely grained tteok.

Once ex­tracted, Sin ex­plained, the garaet­teok is soft and chewy, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to slice.

The strands of rice cake should be air-dried, a process that in­volves ro­tat­ing the garaet­teok oc­ca­sion­ally so it dries evenly. Once dried, the tteok needs to be sliced.

Sin be­lieves that thin slices are ideal for easy-to-chew tteok that feels pleas­ant in the mouth.

Then it is time to eat this Prous­tian treat that con­jures up childhood mem­o­ries with each tasty spoon­ful.

Sin still re­mem­bers how house­holds used to stock up on freshly har­vested rice in the au­tumn to last through to the next year. When win­ter rolled around, there would be plenty of rice left.

Fam­i­lies would draw from those re­serves of white grain, go­ing to the lo­cal mill to have it ground and made into those long strands of rice cake called garaet­teok.

The soft and fresh tteok would be taken home, dried and cut.

While tteok plays a cru­cial role in the dish, Dadam’s Jeong also be­lieves that the broth it­self and the ra­tio of soup to tteok is im­por­tant as well.

In Jeong’s opin­ion, the ideal ra­tio is 40% tteok to 60% broth, so that one does not get too much rice cake or too much soup. Then there is the broth it­self. For a deep and flavour­ful soup, beef leg bone stock is slow-cooked for a long time at Dadam, Jeong re­vealed.

“When you are mak­ing the stock, boil it once and then sim­mer for a long time at medium heat, be­cause if you keep boil­ing it at high heat you will com­pro­mise the flavour of the soup,” Jeong ad­vised.

While tteokguk is tra­di­tion­ally con­sid­ered the cen­tre­piece of the Se­ol­lal ta­ble, it is hardly the sole treat that fam­i­lies gather to feast on dur­ing this spe­cial day.

Gal­bi­jjim, a dish of braised beef short ribs, is yet another Lu­nar New Year favourite.

Ac­cord­ing to Jeong, gal­bi­jjim is con­sid­ered an up­scale treat that can be en­joyed on spe­cial days like Se­ol­lal.

For those who have de­vel­oped a taste for those sweet, rich ribs, gnaw­ing at ev­ery last bit of flesh and scoop­ing up those beefy juices and driz­zling them over glis­ten­ing white rice to pro­long the de­light of this dish, gal­bi­jjim is def­i­nitely some­thing to look for­ward to on Lu­nar New Year.

Yet mak­ing it can be some­what tricky. Leave it too long on the stove and it might burn. Sim­mer it too quickly and it could emerge wa­tery and slightly bland.

For depth of flavour, Jeong rec­om­mends mix­ing a lit­tle bit of Joseon gan­jang, also called soup soya sauce or Korean soya sauce, with soya sauce.

“Joseon gan­jang has been aged for a long time so it pos­sesses deep flavours,” Jeong ex­plained.

To pre­vent the dish from get­ting too rich and greasy, Jeong sug­gests adding dried pyogo mush­rooms when adding all the other sea­son­ings to the gal­bi­jjim and slow-cook­ing it. – The Korea Her­ald/Asia News Net­work

a fam­ily gath­ers around a tra­di­tional break­fast ta­ble laden with spe­cial dishes to cel­e­brate the Lu­nar New year, in­clud­ing tteokguk.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.