Tuesday, August 11, 2020

[Food] Patjuk (팥죽, Red Bean Porridge)


[Food] Patjuk (팥죽, Red Bean Porridge)

Once upon a time, during ancient China's Qin dynasty, there was a man named Gong-gong. He had one son, but this son was the biggest troublemaker in town. One day, Gong-gong served red bean porridge for his son because the Chinese proverb reads, 'You really become one year older when you eat a bowl of red bean porridge on Dongji (the 12th month of the lunar calendar)' but this son knocked the red bean porridge away and stormed out of the house. Soon after, someone in town informed Gong-gong that his son had drowned in the town's well when he was trying to spoil the well. After the death of Gong-gong's son, a mysterious plague ravaged the town and started killing mercilessly. Gong-gong thought that the plague was related to his son's death and that his son had become the god of plague. Gong-gong recalled his son hating red bean porridge, so he spread and covered every house, door and well in town with red bean porridge. Right after, the plague ceased and people recovered. This legend has been passed down generations and makes known that red bean porridge has the power to drive out spiritual beings including ghosts, the god of plague, goblins and so on. Therefore, even today, people eat red bean porridge and cover their doors, storerooms and wells with it to protect themselves from the plague and malicious spiritual beings.

The legend of red bean porridge originated from China and has spread to Korea and Japan, so the three countries in far-east Asia all have a culture of eating red bean porridge on Dongji, and also commonly eat it in the winter season :) It's one of my favorite porridges too.

It's obvious that there are a few legends in Korea of people driving out goblins with red bean porridge. Actually, red bean warms the body, raising one's body temperature when eaten (which aids protection from disease) so it's no wonder there is a red bean porridge legend that kicks out any god of plague and protects people from vicious spirits.

There are two styles of patjuk, one with whole red bean and another with fully grounded red bean :) If you want a crunchy and savory flavor, choose whole red bean style; if you want a silky and soft one, choose the grounded one :) Moreover, some regions eat it either with or without sugar, so if you don't like a sweet taste then you'd better check whether the porridge comes with or without sugar before ordering :)

All three countries put sticky white rice balls into red bean porridge and those rice balls mean 'getting 1 year older'. Sticky rice balls are very necessary for red bean porridge :)

Patjuk is a very friendly, common and cheap food for Koreans :) You can easily find patjuk in any traditional market in Korea :) So, if you are visiting Korea in the winter season, how about trying a bowl of patjuk with sticky rice balls?

Bon Appétit!

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