Is it too late to wish everyone a happy new year? ;)
For many Koreans, January 1st starts by giving respect to our elders by bowing down and wishing them good fortune in the new year: 새해 복 많이 받으세요! In return, the unmarried young’ns will usually get some cold cash-money to store away (of course we are encouraged to SAVE it!) for the year.
This is usually followed by a family meal (late breakfast/early lunch) around the table with the star of the day, dduk guk, or rice cake soup.
Dduk guk is the traditional suhl meal. It also signifies a new year that’s added to your age (good for kids, not so much for adults!). O’s mom has this ridiculous dduk mandoo guk (=same as dduk guk, just with handmade dumplings added to it) that she feeds us anytime we’re visiting. She lovingly prepares her beef bone stock up to a day or two ahead of time to realllly let the broth get nice, rich and not too unctuous (since like all Koreans, she will leave the soup pot out on the ‘veranda’ to let the fat surface and harden overnight). She also always tops it with beautiful jidan (the yellow and white egg strips). Unfortunately, I am usually too hungry to devote to such a deep stock or remember the jidan. My shortcut version below is pretty fast, meaty and for a cold weeknight, sure to hit the spot!
새해 복 많이 받으세요!
Dduk Guk (serves 4-6, should be eaten on the spot – not meant for leftovers)
– 1.5 – 2 lbs rice cakes (fresh ones are often found around the holidays near the register of your local Korean market; otherwise frozen is fine)
– 1/2 lb. ground beef (or if you like a less beefy soup broth, a handful of the large dried anchovies work too)
– 1 TB olive oil
– 1 TB minced garlic
– 4-5 scallions, cut in 2″ slices
– 4 eggs, lightly beaten
– 8-10 cups water (you can always add more)
– 4-5 large sheets of unseasoned seaweed, cut by scissor into matchstick-ish size and put in a small bowl
– soy sauce, salt, pepper, sesame oil to taste
1. Soak the dduk in a large bowl filled with cold water for 5-10 minutes (bit longer if frozen). This step shaves off some cooking time in the pot.
2. Put a large soup pot over medium heat and add the oil. Add the ground beef and minced garlic, crumbling with a wooden spoon.
3. Add the water and bump up the heat to a boil. Skim off any impurities.
4. Drain the dduk and add to the broth. Be careful not to walk away for too long at this point! It will cook rather quickly, 3-5 minutes, depending on your taste. Dduk should not be al dente, but should definitely not be mushy/gummy.
5. Right before you think the dduk is ready, add the scallions to soften in the soup.
6. Turn off the heat. Slowly stir the egg in, creating beautiful, airy egg strands (this is seriously my favorite part!). Drizzle just a *touch* of sesame oil into the soup.
7. Ladle dduk guk into large bowls. Top with cut-up seaweed; season with soy sauce and pepper if you like.