Happy New Year! “새해 복 많이 받으세요!” or the transliteration,
“Say hey bok mahn ee bahd euh sae yo!” The literal meaning roughly translates to, “May this year bring you many blessings!”
Many Koreans celebrate both solar and lunar New Years. Lunar New Year is called 설날 or the transliteration, “Sohl-nahl”. And, the literal meaning roughly translates to, “new day”. 설날 will be celebrated on January 23rd; it will be the year of the water dragon!
But first, let’s celebrate the solar New Year! On January 1st (solar New Year), most Koreans celebrate by eating a traditional rice cake soup called 떡 국 or the transliteration, “duk guk”. Many Koreans add stuffed dumplings called 만두 or the transliteration, “mandu” to 떡 국; this soup is called 떡 만두 국 or the transliteration, “duk mandu guk”. Both soups are symbolic. The white 떡 represents new beginnings, or an “in with the new”. And, 만두 is usually stuffed with old kimchi representing an “out with the old”.
So, 떡 만두 국 is symbolic for the age-old saying, “Out with the old, and in with the new!”
떡 만두 국 is easy to make, and recipes vary (from using beef or chicken broth, to adding beef or omelet slices). Most ingredients are readily available at Korean grocery stores. Here is a simple recipe for 떡 만두 국:
4 cups— water 물 (mul)
2 cups— chicken broth 닥물 (dak mul)
12 pieces— mandu 만두; frozen or thawed
1 cup— sliced rice cake 썰은 쌀떡 (saw-uhn sal duk); frozen
2 stalks— sliced green onions 파를 썰어 노고 (pah-duhl saw-doh no-kho)
Spices 양념 (yang yum):
2 teaspoons— salt 소금 (soh gum)
1 teaspoon— pepper 후추 (hu chu)
2 teaspoons— sesame oil 기름 (cham ghee ruhm)
Optional: 2 handfuls— roasted/seasoned seaweed 기름 (guhn gim); hand crumbled
This recipe makes 2 large servings or 4 small servings.
In a large pot, boil 4 cups of water and 2 cups of chicken broth.
Bring to a boil, and then add 12 pieces of mandu (frozen or thawed) and 1 cup of sliced rice cake pieces (frozen). Let the soup come to a boil.
Allow the soup to boil for about 3 to 5 minutes. While the soup is boiling, add 2 stalks of sliced green onions and all spices: (2 teaspoons of salt, 1 teaspoon of pepper, and 2 teaspoons of sesame oil).
Turn the heat down to a low simmer; ensure that the sliced rice cake pieces are soft. If the rice cakes are soft and floating on top of the broth, the soup is done!
Using a big ladle, spoon the soup into bowls. Then, garnish each bowl of soup with a handful of crumbled roasted seaweed. Pour a little bit of sesame oil on top for extra flavor. Serve with kimchi! Enjoy!