If your New Year’s resolutions are in tatters before the end of January, don’t worry! In Korea you can forget January and start fresh again on the Lunar New Year.
The Lunar New Year is called Seollal (actually, it’s Seollnal, but everyone drops the ‘n’) and it’s one of the biggest holidays of the year. The date of Seollal varies because it’s based on the Lunar calendar. However, it usually falls between late January and early February.
What food to eat on Seollal, Lunar New Year
Seollal is a special time to spend with family. There is usually a lot of food prepared and enjoyed, including noodles to represent long life and little pancakes made with vegetables. But the dish that is unique and essential to Seollal is Tteok-Guk, rice cake soup. Tteok-Guk is eaten by everyone on the morning of New Year’s Day.
It’s pronounced tok-guk.
Why is eating Tteok-Guk so important on the Lunar New Year?
Tteok-Guk is an important dish in Korean culture because rather than celebrating individual birthdays throughout the year, everyone gets one year older together on New Year’s Day. By eating the rice cake soup it means you have aged one more year. Many Korean people have fond childhood memories of eating this soup as quickly as possible, so they can get older the fastest!
To create this soup, families make or buy garetteok which are white rice cakes shaped into long cylinders to symbolize the desire for a long life. The rice cakes are then sliced into oval coin shapes to symbolize prosperity. The coin shaped rice cakes are cooked in a simple broth that is flavored with either beef or, more traditionally, anchovies.
Eating Tteok-Guk if you’re visiting Korea
Rice cake soup is easy to find at local casual Korean restaurants and also ready-made at supermarkets all year round. If you happen to be in Korea during Seollal, it’s best to avoid travelling. The roads and public transport from the big cities to smaller towns will be packed and slow. However, by contrast, the cities are quiet and peaceful. Many shops and restaurants will be closed, but you will always be able to find places to eat and most attractions, such as these great places to visit, will remain open.
Here’s what Tteok-Guk looks like on the Korean menu: 떡국
Happy New Year everyone!
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