Asian communities across the globe are ready to celebrate the Lunar New Year on Feb. 10, 2024. Korean New Year, or Seollal, is an important holiday with families gathering and indulging in delicious traditional foods, which symbolize good luck and prosperity. They also perform rituals and play traditional folk games on this day. Korean New Year dishes differ from those made by the Asian communities to ring in the Chinese New Year. Here are a few traditional ones that are a must-try.
Tteokguk is one of the main dishes made on this day. It is also called Dduk Guk or Korean rice cake soup and is starchy in texture. The dish is eaten during the Korean New Year to wish for fortune and luck in the upcoming year. Moreover, the shape of the rice cakes resembles old-style Korean coins, symbolizing riches and prosperity.
Although this Korean New Year dish might differ from region to region, it is usually made by cutting a long rice cake into thin slices and boiling them in beef broth. The soup is then topped with egg and seaweed flakes right before serving.
Mandu or Manduguk is an alternative to Tteokguk in some parts of Korea. They are dumplings that are made of a flour-based casing. The filling of this Korean New Year dish mainly consists of minced ingredients such as vegetables, meat, or kimchi. This dish is either served in a soup (mixed with Tteokguk) or boiled/steamed/fried. They taste best when served with some condiments.
Korean New Year celebration is incomplete without the famous dish, Japchae. It is typically made with julienned veggies tossed with glass noodles, making it an excellent option for vegans. Apart from vegetables, many also like to add beef. This stir-fried starchy noodle dish with meat and veggies, coated with soy sauce-based marinade, is a must-have on this special occasion. It is a popular appetizer and side dish that is loved by all.
4. Samsaek Namul
Samsaek Namul is one of the Korean side dishes made to pay respect to the ancestors. The name directly translates to three-color vegetables, so the side dishes must be of three different colors: white, black/brown, and green. The most common combinations are Sigeumchi Namul (Korean spinach side dish), Doraji Namul (bellflower root side dish), and Gosari Namul (fernbrake side dish).
However, other side dishes such as stir-fried shiitake mushrooms, bean sprout salad, or sautéed radish can also be used. One essential thing to keep in mind is that green onions or garlic aren’t added to this dish as these ingredients are said to chase away the ancestors’ spirits.
Another lip-smacking Korean New Year dish is Jeon, fried savory pancakes. Families love to make a wide variety of them, like Haemul Pajeon (seafood and green onion pancake), Kimchi Jeon (kimchi pancake), Gogi Wanja Jeon (pan-fried battered meatballs), Kkochi Jeon (pancake skewer), and Gamja Jeon (potato pancake).
Songpyeon is yet another Korean New Dish that is prepared for ancestral rites. It is a rice cake with filling. The rice cake is usually made using a dough of freshly harvested rice. It is filled with beans, red beans, sesame, chestnuts, or other nutritious ingredients and then steamed for health benefits. The rice cakes get their name from being steamed over a bed of pine needles.
No celebration is complete without a sweet treat. One such dish that is made during the Korean New Year is Yaksik. It is a sweet rice cake made with dried fruit, nuts, and honey and has a sticky consistency. Yaksik is eaten on the first full moon of the Lunar New Year.
Apart from these, other dishes like Sikhye (sweet rice drink), Sujeonggwa (cinnamon punch), Galbi Jjim (braised short ribs), Bulgogi (barbequed beef), and Bindaettok (mung bean pancake) are also served to celebrate the Korean New Year.
So, if you are hosting a Korean New Year get-together for your friends or family, surprise them with these traditional dishes and see their faces light up with excitement.