Culture

3 bold, delicious Korean “party foods” for Lunar New Year or any time of year


Tteok guk, or rice cake soup, is a traditional Korean dish served at the Omogari restaurant in San Jose, Calif., on Monday, Jan. 9, 2023. Tteok guk is traditionally eaten on Lunar New Year's Day. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)

Every year around this time, San Jose’s Peter Yi and his family gather around the breakfast table to share what is arguably the most important meal of the year for Koreans: Bowls of steaming hot tteok guk, a beef broth and rice cake soup, to mark the start of Seollal, or Korean Lunar New Year.

“By eating the rice cake soup you are considered to become a year older,” says Yi, who owns San Jose’s Omogari, known for bottomless banchan and sharp, expertly-fermented kimchi, with his parents, Myong and Hoo.

At home, Myong starts prepping days in advance for the holiday, which started Jan. 22. She chops the kimchi, garlic and onions that will go into the mandu dumplings her family likes to add to their clear broth and bobbing rice cakes, which resemble coins and symbolize prosperity.

Tteok guk, or rice cake soup, is a traditional Korean dish served at Omogari. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group) 

Once the kids and friends arrive, everyone gathers around the table, filling and pinching wrappers, starting the year with conversation, laughter and connection. Peter says his Mom’s mandu are perfect, round and hat-shaped. His, not so much.

“Mine are flat and ugly,” he says. “It doesn’t matter what shape it is. It still tastes good in the soup.”

Tteok guk is just one part of this rich tradition that dates back centuries You can find it at numerous restaurants in the Bay Area, including Concord’s Korea House, Oakland’s Jong Ga House and Santa Clara’s Kami Korean Kitchen. Other cultural traditions include sebae, the ceremonial bow before elders, who give white-enveloped cash in return. Some families dress in colorful hanbok and play traditional games like yut. But food is always at the center.

The medley of bold, traditional Korean dishes depends on the family. Yi’s Seollal table always has galbi-jjim, the tender, braised beef short ribs coated with sticky, sweet, nutty sauce. New York Times food writer Eric Kim grew up with a variety of what he calls “peak party foods” for holidays and celebrations, including Seollal. There was the sweet potato noodle dish called japchae, bacon-fat kimchi jeon and beef bulgogi, which was beloved by the kids.

New York Times food columnist Eric Kim’s 2021 cookbook, “Korean American,” highlights bold, delicious dishes for weeknights and holidays, including Lunar New Year. (Clarkson Potter) 

In his debut cookbook, “Korean American: Food That Tastes Like Home” (Clarkson Potter, $32.50), Kim sets out to define what these and other dishes of his youth mean to him now as a 30-something Korean-American recipe developer and food writer. To do that, the New Yorker moved home to Atlanta, Georgia for a year to cook alongside his mother, Jean, sharpening his confidence in kimchi-making — the “Kimchi is a Verb” chapter offers 13 tantalizing recipes — and discovering what a two-finger pinch of salt, dried kelp “the size of your head” and other Mom-isms mean.

“Spending time with my mom and excavating the past, the book ended …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment

      

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