Not another rice cake soup please

Not another rice cake soup please

Without family, Chinese New Year (gu jeong – 구정) seems like just another public holiday.

When I was living in Sydney, I began to forget the importance of Chinese New Year, because being in a western city the focus was always on the calendar New Year (January 1). It wasn’t until I moved to Singapore 7 years ago, I rediscovered how important this holiday is. It is a time when the whole family comes together to celebrate.

One of the most fun customs during gu jeong is receiving money from the parents and relatives who are older than you.  Everyone dresses in Korean traditional costume (han bok -한복) and  the children bow to their parents. In return, the parents give the children money in white envelopes -Se be don -세배돈.

When I was living in Seoul, we used to go to my grandparents on gu jeong. I had 12 cousins at the time and I was the oldest child (and only girl) in the family. We all lined up as if we were in an army and had to bow to our grandparents, parents, uncles and aunts. Afterwards, we used to wonder what we were going to do with all that money.

In terms of traditional food, one dish you must have on gu jeong is rice cake soup (dduk guk – 떡국). In the olden days before we celebrated birthdays eating dduk guk marked the time when you became one year older. It’s funny, when we were young, we wanted to have 2 or 3 bowls of dduk guk at a time so we could get older really fast. These days I try to avoid eating it so I can stay young!

I don’t usually cook dduk guk as normally I would be spending gu jeong with my parents who would make it, but this year I made a nice batch of the soup to start the year of rabbit off with lots of good luck.

How to make dduk guk (떡국):

Ingredients: 1/2 bag rice cakes, 1.5 L beef stock,  a handful of finely chopped spring onions, 2 eggs, 1 tsp seaweed, 1 tsp light soy sauce, 1 tsp fish sauce, salt, white pepper

  • I prepared 1.5L beef stock (or anchovy stock is just as good) by boiling beef bones in a pot for one hour.  I strained the stock and skimed the fat off the top. Nice thick beef stock!

    • Once the stock started to boil, I added the rice cakes and boiled for another 5 minutes. You can buy the rice cake from any Fairprice supermarket in Singapore.

  • While the soup was boiling, I separated one of the egg whites and yolk and fried both separately on low heat and cut them julienne style.
  • I seasoned the soup with 1 tbsp of light soy sauce, 1 tbsp of fish sauce and some salt. I then cracked the other egg into the soup.
  • I served the soup in a bowl garnished with the fried eggs (both yolk and white), diced spring onions and seaweed.

Isn’t the soup pretty? The egg whites and yolk definitely brings out the colours and makes the boring gu jeong rice cake soup sumptuous!  As we say in Korean “Se-he bok man yi bak u se yo! 새해 복 많이 받으세요!” (Happy New Year!)

Korean food festival

Korean food festival

I was honoured when the organiser of the Korean Food Festival called to invite me to cook for the event. All the food which is sold at the event is directly imported from Korea and I was using these ingredients to demonstrate how to cook with them. What grab the most of my attention was their kimchi and fresh fruit. They also sell other items like ddukboki (rice cake), neng myun noodles (cold noodles), seaweed, rice and many more.

I bought a big bag of rice cake at the event and made dduk guk(rice cake soup) with the left over vegetables from my cooking class yesterday! Traditionally dduk guk is eaten on New Years day. The soup is clear and usually has just spring onions, beef and eggs but today was the kimchi soup version!

The Korean Food Festival  continues at Chinatown Point from Tuesday 20 July until Sunday 25 July and I will be at the event  from 12pm – 5pm demonstrating Korean cooking (except Saturday because of a cooking class!) Drop in and say Hi as it would be great to meet you all. I’ll be the one in the chefs hat!!