Thursday, February 7, 2008

S, Segments & Streams: food for seaonal holidays

The seasonal food Koreans eat on the specific days functions as a gate that begins new season and ends the old; the signal that segmentation and succession of time. For instance winter solstice (Dong-ji, in Korean) is celebrated with Pat-juck, red bean soup.

Pat(Korean red bean, AKA azuki bean) is red; the color that symbolizes blood. Blood has been believed an essence of power and life. It drives all jealous evil which may lurk on good days to ruin the happiness. The color red also means 'yang': power of sun. Winter solstice is the day when the yang finally begin to grow. By eating this soup, Koreans wish for the growing yang to be stronger as the growing daylights.

The cellular structure of 'Pat' is unique. Each cell has thick wall which allows to be made into smooth pastes or fine powder once they cooked. This characteristic of Pat is fully appreciated and utilized in many sweets and savory dishes around North East Asia.
Pat-juck is usually savory in Korea. The sweetened version is called Dan-Pat-juck. ‘Dan’ indicates sweetness. It is served with both extra salt and sugar so each person can season it as they desire.
Smooth silky texture is both from finely grounded Pat and sweet rice which cooked in the soup. The simple soup is served with white sweet rice balls.
As child, I didn't like this soup. It was too hot, rice ball stick to teeth and was hard to swallow. The taste was rather bland to the child’s tongue But making it was fun. The rice ball is made by all of the household members. I remember making it with my parents and younger brother. It wasn't easy to form perfectly sized balls as my father's and mother's. But I insisted to have rice ball I made.
I made it the bitter cold wet & snowy winter day -an example what the New England winter can offer. The warmth of this soup -or porridge if you may insist- brings up Yang, the breath of spring Sun hidden somewhere waiting for the growing days.

New year's day -which same day with Chinese new years day - is called Seol-nal. The ancient Korean word 'Seol' means something pure and white; the end and the beginning.
This way is also celebrated with special food; Tteok-ghuk.
Tteok’ is various form of rice paste. For Tteok-ghuk, rice paste is made into stick shape and sliced thin. Tteoks are usually sweet but also used or made in savory dish. In most cases they are made with rice. Depending on occasion, various types of Tteoks were served and still are served.

When I was young, Seol-nal preparation began with trip to miler who would make over night soaked rice into rice stick. Freshly made rice stick was warm and chewy. It makes excellent snack for me and my younger brother. Our nanny –who was also worked as domestic helper for our family – brought still steaming bundle of rice stick to home. It was dried and sliced into thin oval shape.
In Seol-nal morning, the special soup, Tteok-ghuk was made with this sliced rice stick. Special broth had been simmered all day since the morning before. Depending on family, dumpling is added.
When we stayed at Seoul, my uncle’s family came early morning and we enjoyed family meal. Unlike holidays in United states are generally celebrated in the evening, Korean holidays begin early with ancestral ceremony.After the morning feast, I, my brother and two cousins would do Se-bea, a formal bow to the elders. In return, we got small amount of pocket money with blessing for the year.



Pat (Azuki bean) 1 cup
Sushi rice (or medium rice)
1 cup Water 4 cups + 2 cups
Sea Salt 1/2 T
Dark brown sugar 1 t

1. Soak washed bean in cold water for an hour. In separate bowl, soak rice.
2. Boil beans in 2 cups of water for 5 min. Through away water and add 4 cups of cold water, cook it on medium heat till beans are completely cooked.
3. Ground beans in blander finely. Add the water that the bean was cooked. (careful!! It is culinary version of lava!!) Sieve it with fine shiv over clean big stainless steal bowl. Through away whatever left on the sieve.
4. Return the liquid in stainless bowl into the pot. Add rice (removed from the water) salt and sugar.
5. Heat the pot on medium heat. Stir very well while it is on heat.
6. Add sweet rice balls when the rice is almost cooked.
7. Serve warm with extra salt and sugar.

For sweet rice ball
Sweet rice flour 3/4 cup
Boiling Water 4 T
Fresh Ginger, ground 1 t
Cinnamon, ground 1/2 t
Pinch of salt

1. Mix rice flour with Ginger, Cinnamon, and salt.
2. Add boiling water and mix well till it forms smooth paste.
3. Make it into 3/4 inch diameter ball. (about the size of quail egg)
4. Boil about 3 cups of water in a pot.
5. Cook 4-5 balls at a time in boiling water. It is cooked 1-2 min after it floats on top.
6. Spread them on coated cookie pan, cover them with plastic wrap after they cool down.
** They are very sticky. Do not let them stick to each other or the cookie pan.

Pre-sliced rice stick 2 cup - available in Internet or in Korean groceries
Water 5 cups
Soy sauce 1 1/2 T
Pinch of salt & Fresh ground pepper
Dried shiitake, 3-5
Dasima (Dried stalk sea weed, ) 3 inch by 3 inch, 1 slice
Garlic, minced, crushed or sliced (I prefer sliced ) 1 fat clove
Ginger, fresh, minced, crushed or sliced (I prefer sliced ) 1 t
Egg, large 1
Leek, washed through 1 cup
Sesame oil 1 t

1. Soak washed & stemmed shiitake and dasima in 5 cups of cold water.
2. Heat sesame oil, add leek, garlic, ginger. Stir and cook till leek is half cooked.
3. Add 1 with shiitake and dasima. After boil, reduce to lowest heat, and simmer for at least 30 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, soak rice stick slice for 20 - 30 min in cold water and remove before adding into the pot.
5. Increase heat, and when the broth boils, add rice stick slice. Cook till rice stick is fully cooked.
6. Remove from heat, add egg and stir.
7. Put it into serving bowl, add garnish, and serve warm right away.

** This is vegetarian version. For non-vegetarians, use ground beef if you desire. Season ground beef with soy sauce, garlic and ginger. Heat little bit of sesame oil, add beef and leek, cook till leek is half cooked, add water and boil.

Kim komung (Nori garnish) - cut sushi nori into thin, short, same length strip
Egg garnish
Two large eggs, vegetable oil, pinch of salt
1. Separate yolk from white. Gently beat each with pinch of salt.
2. Heat gently vegetable oil in coating pan.
3. Pour egg white first. When the egg is half set, turn off the heat and cover the pan.
4. Remove cooked egg white and cook yolk in same way.
5. Cool it down and slice it or cut it into diamond shape.

The garnish is not just for the decoration. Nori flakes is a must!!

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