Songpyeon – Korean Rice Cakes

Chuseok is a Korean harvest festival and as in all countries, special delicacies are made to celebrate this special occasion. Whereas the Chinese have their Moon Ccakes, the people of Korea have the “songpyeon“. Made from rice flour, this traditional rice cake is kneaded into balls and and stuffed with sesame seeds, beans, or chestnuts. The old Korean adage is that whoever makes the most beautiful songpyeon has the best chance to either meet a good spouse or give birth to a beautiful baby.

Cooking Time: 15mins – 30mins
Total time: 30mins – 60mins

Ingredients

Basic white dough

1 cup frozen rice powder (sifted)
3 tbsp boiling hot water (add 1 or 2 tsp if necessary)

Green dough

1 cup frozen rice powder (thawed to room temperature)
1 tsp ssukgaru (mugwort powder)
3½ tbsp boiling hot water (add 1 or 2 tsp if necessary)

Pink dough

1 cup frozen rice powder (thawed to room temperature)
A pinch of strawberry Jell-o powder
3 tbsp boiling hot water (add 1 or 2 tsp if necessary)

Filling (fills about 30 cakes)

½ cup roasted sesame seeds
½ cup brown sugar
A pinch of salt

Other ingredients

Pine needles (to steam)
Cold water (to rinse)
Sesame oil (to coat songpyeon)

Instructions

To make the filling:

  1. Grind the sesame seeds in a grinder or blender for about
    20 secs. Then transfer ground sesame to a bowl and mix in ½
    cup of brown sugar and a pinch of salt.

To make the dough:

  1. Prepare 3 cups of rice powder and sift into a large bowl.
  2. Equally divide the rice powder into 3 bowls. Each bowl should now contain 1 cup of rice powder.
  3. To prepare the basic white dough, add 3 tbsp boiling hotwater to the rice powder and mix it with a spatula. When the dough is cool enough to handle, knead for about 5 mins, then wrap with cling film and set aside.
  4. To prepare the green dough, add 1 tsp of ssukgaru (mugwort powder) and 3½ tbsp boiling hot water to the rice powder and mix it with a spatula. When the dough is cool enough to handle, knead for about 5 mins, then wrap with cling film and set aside.
  5. To prepare the pink dough, add a pinch of strawberry Jell-o powder and 3 tbsp boiling hot water to the rice powder and mix it with a spatula. When the dough is cool enough to handle, knead for about 5 mins, then wrap with cling film and set aside.

To assemble songpyeon:

  1. Tear off a small piece of the dough enough to make roughly 1-inch ball. Roll tightly between your palms to shape a ball.
  2. Make a well in the ball by pressing into it with your thumb, and stretch the dough slightly outwards with both of your thumbs to expand the opening.
  3. Fill the well with ½ tsp of sesame filling, then seal tightly by squeezing the edges together. Squeeze the whole rice cake lightly in your palm to firm it up. shape it to resemble a half moon. Repeat until all the dough/filling is used.
  4. Prepare a steamer by bringing water to boil over high heat. Place a thin layer of pine needles or a damp kitchen cloth on the steamer insert. When it starts to steam, place the rice cakes on the steamer insert without the pieces touching one another. Cover with a thin layer of pine needles, if available. Cover and steam for about 20 mins.
  5. Prepare a big bowl of cold water. Using a long-handed spoon or tong, remove the rice cakes from the steamer. Immediately immerse then into cold water for a quick rinse, removing all the pine needles. Transfer the rice cakes to a colander to drain. Lightly coat your hands with the sesame oil and rub the oil on the rice cakes in batches. Serve warm or at room temperature.