Wednesday, October 17, 2018

[Food] Yakgwa (약과, Traditional Korean deep-fried honey cookie)


[Food] Yakgwa (약과, Traditional Korean deep-fried honey cookie)

I love desserts. 

I call myself 'gourmet' and love to enjoy tasting most foods. And, today, I'm at a traditional Korean market near my place to have lunch alone. I usually spend a lot of time picking a menu for myself but I don't think I will because I'm one hungry hippo now. I quickly found one beef gukbap (Korean-style soup eaten with rice) place that can fill my tummy in 30 minutes.

Korean traditional market. A lot of people are walking through an arcade.

pposite the gukbap place where I'm sitting, there is a rice cake shop. Rice cake is not today's topic but I love rice-cakes too :) The mixture of chewy, sweet and salty flavored rice-cakes drives me to happiness.

A typical rice-cake shop and rice-cakes

After finishing a pot of gukbap, I obviously walked into the rice-cake shop to buy some traditional sweets. I picked up a pack of colorful rice balls, rice-cakes with sugared sesame inside of my favorite of all times :)

Yakgwa (약과, Traditional Korean deep fried honey cookie)

Oh, what a sweet and salty aroma you have :) you beautiful Yakgwa. I love your crispy outside and moist inside :). Moreover, Yakgwa is not an expensive dessert nowadays. I see each yakgwa bagged into a transparent plastic pouch.

"How much is Yakgwa, sir?"

I asked a middle-aged man who seems to be the owner of the rice-cake shop.

"700 won (Won, Korean currency) each but 2000 won for 4 of them. Cheaper than in other shops, right?"

"Oh, sweet. I 'd love to take 4 of them."

"Thanks, precious customer. 2000 won, please. You know, yakgwa was a very expensive dessert that was usually used for ancestral rites and other important days like New Year or Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving day)."

"Yeah? I didn't know that. I'd like to hear more."

I continue talking as I pay 2000 won.

"Well...Koreans had been cooking yakgwa a thousand years ago but do you think flour was very common in Korea?"

"No, I don't think so. I know Koreans have been using flour since 1~2 B.C. but it was very rare so only rich nobles or the royal family could use it, right?"

Flour was very common in China and western countries but Korea :(

The owner smiles. His facial expression saying 'How do you know that?'

"You clever boy, you know things eh? Then it is easy to talk with you, haha. 

Yeah, so yakgwa was one of the most expensive foods in the Chosun dynasty. Actually, to make good yakgwa, we need ingredients that used to be expensive long ago."

What are they? I want to know how to make yakgwa."

"To make good Yakgwa, you need to boil a mixture of grain syrup, ginger slice and water to coat it in yakgwa."

Grain syrup - a long time ago, honey was a very rare ingredient. So the Koreans created a sweet syrup with rice :)

Ginger slice

"Then how do you make this yakgwa cookie? How do you make dough out of it?"

I talk to him as I begin eating my first yakgwa and feeling the sweet honey flavor and moist texture flowing into my mouth.

"Mix flour with salt, black pepper powder and cinnamon powder. Then make dough after putting some soju (Korean rice liquor) and honey to make dough"

Cinnamon must have also been expensive in the past

Sesame oil

Soju, Korean rice liquor. A very common liquor in Korea.

Honey :)
"...then what do you do? bake it in an iron pot?"

"Nope. You deep-fry it in an iron pot - not bake it - till it forms a dark-brown color. And you coat them with sweet syrup that you have already made by dipping them in for 3~6 hours."

This is how to make yakgwa :) (Korean only)

"Wow....I can't believe a lot of work and time is needed for this small thing. I think that it's worth more than 500 won, don't you think?"

"Well....there are factories where yakgwa is mass produced today, so it becomes really cheap and you can buy 4 of them with 2000 won. It's a good thing for you, haha."

Yakgwa with pine nuts on it. 

Yakgwa for ancestral rites
"Haha...that is absolutely right. Oops, I've already eaten them all. May I have another 4, please? I will enjoy them at home."

He grabs 5 yakgwa from a display shelf.

"One more is a bonus for you, yakgwa lover. Come again."

"Yes, I will come again. I think one more visit will pay for your story." I grin.

I think that I have to thank God for letting me be born these days so that I can enjoy yakgwa at a cheap price :)

Bon appétit!

No comments:

Post a Comment