Food & Drink

A Guide to Korean Rice Cakes

The most commonly eaten traditional Korean dessert is definitely rice cakes or tteok. Korean rice cakes are delicious balls of pure happiness consisting of rice flour and various other grains. There are so many types of rice cakes and there are no bad options. However, here are a few good options to get you started. 

What is Korean Rice Cake?

Korean rice cake isn’t easy to make. In the past, families would spend hours making rice cakes by grinding grain, slowly adding in watter and beating the resulting dough with a large wooden stick. It was exhausting work. Nowdays, most people buy rice cake from various hole-in-the-wall shops or from their local supermarkets.

There are four main categories of Korean rice cakes based on the method used to make them. Categories include; steamed, pounded, shaped and pan-fried. Typical ingredients added to Korean rice cake include red bean, mung bean, roasted soybean, mugwort, honey and chestnut. 

Personally, I am a huge fan of Koren rice cake because of the chewy texture and delicate taste. I often buy rice cake as a snack or have it after meals as dessert. Here are some of my favorite kinds of Korean rice cake that can be easily found at any local dessert shop. 

The Importance of Rice Cakes

Traditionally, rice cake was regarded as such a precious food that it could only be eaten on special days, such as holidays or during festivals. Rice cake is a food that is meant to be shared. New neighbors will often be welcomed with a fresh plate of sweet rice cake .

It is also common to see rice cake being used in Korean Shamanism during spiritual rites and various local festivals. Some occasions also call for specific kinds of rice cake. On Chuseok making syeongpyeon with the family is a yearly tradition. For Dol, a celebration of a child’s first 100 days of life, a special 100-Day rice cake is on display.

Honey Rice Cake (꿀떡) 

Honey rice cake is roundand small, perfect for eating in a single bite. Although they are called ‘honey rice cakes’, these rice cakes usually don’t contain any honey. Instead, what you’ll find is a sticky, sweet syrup often made from corn syrup or sugar. It is also common to find seseme seeds or ground nuts mixed into the syrup. The chewy outer layer comes in various colors and flavors including mugwort and black sesame. It’s so delicious, its easy to eat them all in one sitting, be careful!

White Snow Rice Cake (백설기) 

Named after snow, this type of rice cake is typically pure white in color. However, it may come with cute designs such as hearts or have dried fruits and nuts embedded on the top. Baekseolgi is a common dessert to see featured at a newborn baby’s 100th day celebration, as it signifies the purity of a young child. 

The combination of chewiness and density makes this rice cake unique, and the reason why I enjoy it. It is probably the rice cake I indulge in most often. The flavor is neutral and not very sweet – perfect as a palate cleanser after a flavorful meal. 

Another variant of white snow rice cake worth a try is honey white snow rice cake. It uses the same type of rice cake however, a layer of honey is sandwiched between two layers. So yummy!

Bean Powder Rice Cake (인절미)

Often flavored with either roasted soybean or mugwort powder, injeolmi is made by steaming pounded glutinous rice flour and shaping it into small, bite-sized pieces. The powdered beans give injeolmi its distinct, nutty flavor, which complements the chewiness of the rice cake to result in a perfect, no-frills dessert. 

This particular type of rice cake is often adaptated into modern recipes. Many bingsu chains offer injeolmi options on their menus. Another popular adaptation is Injeolmi toast. It has found a dedicated following among those with tastes that lean to the traditional, as well as adventurous individuals whohave an interest in fusion food. New adaptations of the dessert are constantly evolving, but its always nice to go back to the original.

To read about more traditional Korean sweets >>Click Here<<

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