Seollal Foods

by M.L. Lee, 21/01/2020

If you are lucky enough to be invited to join a Korean family over Seollal, you can expect to get some great food. Following are just some of the dishes you are likely to get to enjoy.

Rice Cake Soup (Tteokguk /떡국)
Seollal’s most important dish is tteokguk (rice cake soup. Because the slices of ddeok (rice cake) resemble coins, they symbolize wealth while the long rice cake role from which the slices are cut is symbolic of long life. The recipe for tteokguk varies from region to region, and even family to family. For example, some include dumplings (mandu /만두) while others add fresh oyster. The stock base may be beef or dried anchovy for example.

Dumpling Soup (Manduguk / 만둣국)
When dumplings are added, the rice cake soup may actually become more of a dumpling soup. The dumplings may be stuffed with kimchi or with pork or a combination of pork/beef, shrimp or other seafood among other options.

Often referred to in English as ‘pancake’, jeon is actually a savoury side dish. The dish is made from vegetables, meats, fish or seafood coated in flour and egg and then pan-fried in oil. It's a popular side dish and is almost always included in a special occasion meal.

Glass Noodle Stir Fry (Japchae/잡채)
You’re almost guaranteed to be offered Japchae during a holiday meal. This dish is very popular on a variety of occasions as well. Japchae basically translated as mixed vegetables. The glass noodles are made from sweet potatoes mixed with vegetables such as spinach, capsicum (red, yellow and/or green), onion, mushrooms and sesame oil. Meat may be added but often is not.

Korean BBQ Beef  (Bulgogi/불고기)
Bulgogi is a sweet and savory marinated beef dish. While it may be made with tender parts of beef, port or chicken, the dish most commonly uses beef. This is another dish that varies from one region to the other and from one family’s traditions to another’s. The sauce is what make bulgogi special and it can be a blend of brown sugar, soy sauce, apple or Asian pear or pineapple, garlic, ginger, black pepper and sesame oil. Bulgogi is often served with lettuce or perilla leaves so that you can wrap the meat, paired with dipping sauce, garlic, kimchi) making each ‘bite’ unique.

Cinnamon Punch (Sujeonggwa/수정과)
This popular dessert drink is usually included in a festive holiday meal, maybe because it is reputed to help digestion. It’s made with cinnamon sticks, fresh ginger and raw sugar or brown sugar. It’s most often served cold although hot is an option.

Sweet Rice Drink (Sikhye/식혜)
Another popular holiday drink (that also purports to help with digestion), sikhye is more like a tea. It’s made with malted barley flour and has a nutty rather than sweet taste. You’ll recognise the drink easily it features floating white rice

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