Wednesday, September 22, 2021

[Food] Songpyeon (Half-Moon Rice Cake, 송편)


[Food] Songpyeon (Half-Moon Rice Cake, 송편)

Once upon a time in Korea, around the 7th century, there were three kingdoms named Baekje, Goguryeo and Silla. One day, King Euija of Baekje found a turtle coming out of the ground in his palace with the words 'Baekje is full moon and Silla is half moon' written on the turtle's shell. King Euija found this very strange, so he asked fa amous fortune-teller to translate it. The fortune-teller replied, 'Baekje will decline slowly because it's full-moon, and Silla will rise gradually and become full-moon because it's now half-moon.' Some decades later, this prophecy came true when Silla unified the Korean peninsula.

Since then, people have started making half-moon shaped rice cake on Chuseok (추석, Traditional Korean Thanksgiving Day) as a wish for a prosperous and secure future because the 'half-moon' symbolized richness and success. This half-moon shaped rice cake has been called 'Songpyeon (Half-Moon Rice Cake, 송편)' because 'song' means pine tree and 'pyeon' means cake. Songpyeon need to be steamed on pine leaves.

Today, Koreans still cook and eat songpyeon on Chuseok (and other usual days too) to wish for a plentiful, rich and good fortune and beautiful children :) When Koreans gather to make songpyeon on Chuseok, they usually say, 'You will have beautiful children when you make beautiful songpyeon'.

The dough of songpyeon is usually made of sticky rice and other ingredients to give it color such as mugwort, Korean cactus and more. People usually put sweet nuts inside songpyeon. Its popular ingredients are sesame, chestnut, red bean and peas with black and white sugar :)

Songpyeon with sweet white bean paste

Then why do Koreans use pine leaves to steam songpyeon? Firstly, to prevent songpyeon sticking to each other in a steam pot and to give them a good smell. Secondly, pine leaves have anti-bacterial and anti-carcinogenic properties so songpyeon can be more nutritious. Thirdly, pine tree is an 'everlasting' symbol so people wish for unchanging success when they make songpyeon :)

We don't know the exact time when Koreans started to eat songpyeon (maybe more than 1500 years ago?) but it is true that people hope the moon's power gives success and peace as they gaze at the full-moon on Chuseok :)

How about making songpyeon this Thanksgiving Day with your family? It may bring you an everlasting successful and peaceful life :)

Bon Appétit! 

1 comment:

  1. A beautiful post. The half-moon rice cakes look so appetising.