Many Koreans ring in the new year with a breakfast of tteokguk, a traditional rice cake soup, on both solar and lunar New Year’s Day.
This dish of broth with chewy slices of rice cake, garnished with egg, thin-sliced vegetables, and mushrooms, tastes great on a cold winter’s morning. It’s thought to bring good luck for the new year and also soothes a New Year’s party hangover. Tteokguk is soft and soothing like the full moon.
Food for New Year’s Day
Rice cakes start out as a long white bar. The length of the rice cake bar is symbolic of a long life. The bar is then cut into small oval medallions before being added to the soup. These resemble coins and represent prosperity for the new year.
Since in the Korean way of counting one’s age, everyone turns a year older on New Year’s day, there’s a saying that you can’t turn a year older until you finish your tteokguk.
Children are said to put down multiple bowls to gain additional years and seniority over their peers, while older women leave a little left in their bowl and thus avoid aging.
How to make Tteokguk (1 serving)
Ingredients: rice cakes, beef bone stock (traditional or instant), one egg, soy sauce, salt, sesame oil, garnishes of your choice
1. Soak rice cakes in cool water to soften (20-30 minutes)
2. Bring beef stock to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan
3. Add rice cakes to the boiling broth
4. Turn off the heat and season to taste with soy sauce or salt
5. Gently pour the raw egg into the hot soup to cook it
6. Add a dash of sesame oil and your choice of garnishes.