Seollal 설날 (Korean New Year) is Next Week!
That means it’s time for tteokguk 떡국! Tteokguk is the yummy traditional rice cake soup that’s eaten on New Year’s Day. The round shape of the rice cakes symbolizes money, because the roundness are like coins. And the white color of the rice cakes symbolizes purity, as in starting fresh for the new year.
It’s also a tradition to eat it to symbolize turning a year older since everyone simultaneously ages a year on New Year’s Day, according to how Koreans calculate age. (I know that’s kind-of confusing, so I cleared it up here.) So often, you’ll hear people asking if you’ve eaten tteokguk, because you’re not officially a year older until you have. But if you ask me, that’s a reason for me to never eat tteokguk ever again! Forever young! …But tteokguk is so tasty…. Meh, what’s in a number?! Enjoy the soup! 😉
This is my mom’s recipe. I think it’s easier than many others because she used ground beef instead of flank steak. It’s also cheaper that way!
Vegetable oil – 1-2 tablespoons
Ground beef – about 8 ounces
Garlic, minced – 1 tablespoon
Salt – to taste
Pepper – to taste
Beef stock – 64 ounces
Green onions – 3 stalks
Rice cake discs – about 5 cups
Dried seaweed lavers – to taste
- In a large bowl, soak the rice cake discs in cold water for about 30 minutes.
- Put the vegetable oil in a large skillet to coat the pan, and heat over medium-high.
- Add the ground beef and garlic to the skillet. Sauté until the beef is just browned.
- Add salt and pepper to taste. And remove from heat.
- In a large pot, bring the beef stock to a boil over high heat. Then lower to a simmer.
- Slice the green onions diagonally into about 1/4-inch slices. (Use the white and light green parts only.) And add the slices to the beef stock and let simmer for about 5-10 minutes.
- Add the rice cakes to the beef stock and cook over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes or until the rice cakes are soft.
- Ladle the soup into a large bowl, top with the sauteéd beef and sprinkle the dried seaweed over it by crushing it with your hands.
My mom always put our tteokguk into a huge communal family bowl from which each person would dish out however much we wanted. However, you can certainly ladle the soup out into individual bowls, and add the beef and seaweed on top. And that’s actually much prettier presentation-wise.
You can also fancy it up more with dumplings, hot red pepper threads and/or a sliced omelet. Since I’m all about the rice cakes themselves, all that kind-of just gets in my way!
But don’t forget to serve it with a side of some sort-of kimchi – that which is quintessentially Korean and cannot be missing for Seollal, of all days!
Let me know how it goes in the comments!