Friday, February 08, 2008

Eating your age

Kimberly in China recently posted on her blog about the Chinese age system. The year that you're born is your first year, and your age goes up at each new year. (They do celebrate their birthdays but they don't get older on their birthdays.) They do it the same way in Korea, and there's also a food tradition involved.

Dduk (sounds a lot like "duck," with what's called a "tense" d at the beginning) is rice cake made with glutinous rice flour. It comes in a lot of different forms. One form is little white oval-shaped pieces, that are cooked in soup called dduk guk. This is the traditional dish for the lunar new year in Korea. They say that when you eat dduk guk on the lunar new year, you get a year older. They call it eating age. (This of course leads to the expected jokes, like "So if I don't eat it I won't get any older?" and "What happens if I have two bowls?")

So yesterday I made dduk guk, and I thought I'd share the recipe here.

You probably won't be able to find dduk outside of a Korean grocery store, but if you're lucky enough to have one in the area, this is what it looks like. (Packaging varies.) The stores around here keep it near the produce section.

Other ingredients are:

beef (thinly sliced, if you can get it)
beef broth
green onion
soup soy sauce (called 국간장, or regular soy sauce in a pinch)
sesame oil
black pepper

I have this cookbook called A Korean Mother's Cooking Notes that explains how to boil some beef brisket with garlic and green onion for two hours. I didn't do that. I just used a carton of beef broth from the store and added a little more water.

Put the broth on to boil with little of the garlic and some of the green onion, and a couple tablespoons of the soup soy sauce.

Cut up your beef into thin strips, mix with garlic, a little sesame oil, a little soy sauce (this is actually supposed to be regular soy sauce, not soup soy sauce), some of the green onion (probably mostly the white bits), and black pepper, and stir fry it. (This all a "to taste" kind of thing. I put in lots of garlic. And lots of black pepper.)

Beat up the egg and add the rest of the green onion (mostly green bits). The book just calls for one egg, but I used three. My sister Betsey likes to use a lot of egg, too.

Rinse the dduk. This is supposed to keep the slices from dissolving in the soup. I'm not sure how it does that, but I guess it works.

Drop dduk slices into boiling beef broth. When the slices float to the top (which doesn't take long), turn the heat off, then add the egg mixture and stir it so the egg cooks in stringy bits.

Put in the stir-fried meat. (This can be added earlier, if you want.) Add a little more sesame oil to the soup, if you like it.

My dduk guk is thicker than what you'll generally see in Korean restaurants. It turned out really well. This batch was particularly tasty. I think it was the beef broth and all the garlic, and the dduk was a really good consistency, too. (It's easy to overcook, and then it gets slimy.) Kate was not impressed, though. I got her to taste the broth a little, and she said it was good, but she wasn't interested in actually eating it. Apparently I have been remiss in my food-acclimatization duties.


Heather T. said...

If I ate my age, I'd probably choke on it!

I used to date a Korean guy, and we'd have spicy crab stew for breakfast, and a super-delicious beef (small ribs?) thingie with sweet soy sauce and lots of garlic and green onions. Thanks for bringing back some delicious gastronomical memories!

Becky said...

Don't you love Korean food! I better start learning some recipes before our stay is up. The scrapbook page is just darling!

Julie Beth said...

My mouth is watering just looking at your scrapbook page. We found out we will be moving to Nashville around the begining of July. I guess I better enjoy all the Korean food I can while we are still here in the city of 3 Korean resteraunts and 4 Korean grocery stores. :)

meems said...

wow, I cannot believe I have completely forgotten about dduk guk! Gosh, I haven't had that in a long time.

Anonymous said...

I love the recipe! You explained it so well :) We have Dduk in our Korean market..but since the soup isn't in my "Korean Cooking the Easy Way" book...I just didn't know what to do with it! We had Rice Cake Soup in Korea, so I know that it is Yummy :)I bookmarked this for future reference!

Donnah C said...

Yum. Yours looks better than the ones here! I love this dish.