Happy Chuseok! Chuseok is back. It is one of the most important holidays for Koreans. On this day, relatives gather and wear Hanbok. Then, they prepare songpyeon made of new rice and various foods such as fresh fruit and taro soup to show gratitude for the harvest. Among them, songpyeon is one of the popular foods on Chuseok, showing off various colors and flavors. This SMT reporter also made songpyeon for Chuseok.
Do you know Songpyeon?
Songpyeon is one of the traditional Korean rice cakes, usually eaten on Chuseok. Because "oryeo" means early ripening rice, it is also called "oryeo songpyeon," which contains the meaning of sincerity and appreciation for new rice and new grains on Chuseok. There are many tales about the origin of songpyeon, but the tale of Baekje is the most famous. In the era of the Three Kingdoms, King Uija, the king of Baekje, found the words "Baekje is the full moon and Silla is the half-moon" written on the back of a turtle from the palace. King Uija, who first saw the turtle, was happy to think that Baekje's power was bigger than Silla's. But a famous fortune-teller interpreted it as meaning that Baekje was gradually leaning, and Silla was getting bigger. After hearing this story, Baekje people made half-moon-shaped rice cakes and ate them, which is said to be the origin of songpyeon. Later, it appeared in ISaek's poem collection, MokEunJip written towards the end of the Goryeo dynasty. So, it is presumed that songpyeon have become common during the Goryeo Dynasty. It also appears in DonggukSesigi, a book explaining Joseon's twelve months of events and their customs. According to the book, there was a custom of hanging an ear of rice on a pole at farmhouses to pray for a good harvest on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month. Then, they made songpyeon and distributed them to slaves. This custom has been handed down until now, and songpyeon has become a part of Chuseok culture.
Songpyeon is characterized by a variety of colors and "soe." It means the filling inside the dough. That is why the ingredients vary from region to region. In Gangwon Province, where many potatoes are produced, potato starch is kneaded in cold water to make potato songpyeon with red beans or kidney beans as the soe. In Gyeongsang Province, they make clean blue songpyeon with ramie leaves. On the other hand, ordinary songpyeon is made by placing various soe inside the dough, made of non-glutinous rice powder, forming a half-moon shape, and steaming them on pine needles. The soe is usually made of sesame, sugar, salt, beans, and red beans. The dough is usually yellow, pink, or green which are made of either gardenia powder, cactus powder, or mugwort powder. After placing the soe on the dough, it is formed into a half-moon shape and steamed on the pine needles for 25 minutes. When pine needles are used, the songpyeons do not stick, and the scent improves. But recently, because of the effects of environmental pollution, people use hemp cloth.
Let's make them
This SMT reporter made sesame songpyeon with white and pink dough. To make the dough, you need 395g of non-glutinous rice powder, 5g of cactus powder, 0.3g of salt, and 320ml of hot water. The reporter bought cactus powder for the pink songpyeon, but it is not needed if you want to make only white songpyeon. Or, if you want to make green or yellow songpyeon, you need 5g of mugwort powder or pumpkin powder. To make the soe, you need 50g of sesame seeds, 5 tablespoons of sugar, 1 tablespoon of oligo-sugar, and 0.3g of salt. This SMT reporter used paper cups because there was no measure. When all the ingredients are ready, place the dough in a bowl. The reporter divided 200g and 195g of non-glutinous rice powder to make the white and pink dough separately. A pinch of salt and 160ml of hot water was added to the 200g of white dough, and a pinch of salt and 160ml of hot water were added to the 195g of pink dough. You can add more or remove the cactus powder so that you can get the color you want. Then, mix the dough. The important thing here is that the dough should be kneaded as soon as possible. And it needs to be wrapped and stored in the refrigerator so that the dough does not dry out. Next, to make the soe, mix all the ingredients in a bowl. When the soe is ready, take the dough out of the refrigerator and tear off a piece. Flatten the dough, then put an appropriate amount of soe inside and close it. Then shape it into a half-moon shape. Once all the songpyeon have been made, put a hemp cloth in a steamer and steam them for 25 to 30 minutes. After that, apply sesame oil to the songpyeon to finish it off. It took about 3 hours in total.
The process of making songpyeon was fun, but there were also some difficulties. First, it was difficult to get the non-glutinous rice powder. If you're going to make songpyeon, you can buy it at a mill or the rice corner of the supermarket. Also, making songpyeon is not as easy as the recipe seems. In particular, it is important to make the dough well, but for this SMT reporter, the dough became sticky because of adding more water than the recipe called for. So the shape of the songpyeon was not easy to form. It was important to wrap the soe well inside the dough to prevent it from bursting, but the soe kept sticking out as the dough was sticky. So, half the songpyeon were thrown away. The dough doesn't clump well at first, but it's never because of a lack of water, so this reporter recommends not adding more water. Nevertheless, it was a good experience to make and eat songpyeon. These days, people can easily buy songpyeon-making kits online, or there are even one-day classes, so this reporter recommends you make it once on Chuseok.
Try, and it will be a good experience
It was also the first time for this SMT reporter to make songpyeon at home. It was harder than first thought, but it was meaningful to make songpyeon on Chuseok. These days, when COVID-19 is preventing people from gathering on Chuseok, this reporter recommends you make songpyeon at home to re-create the atmosphere. It will be a good memory for Chuseok.