Songpyeon is a Korean traditional rice cake to eat on Chuseok, which is celebration of the year’s good harvest. Traditionally it’s made with the rice of the first harvest of the year. Chuseok is August 15 by the lunar calendar, which is usually in the middle of September by the solar calendar. This year it’s September 14th.
Make the dough:
- Prepare a package of rice powder (2 lbs) usually sold frozen at a Korean grocery store. Just before using it, you must thaw it until the powder is at room temperature.
- Put rice powder through a sifter to make the powder fine.Tip: If your rice powder is very fine, you can skip sifting. If your rice powder is coarse, you may have to grind it with a food processor or coffee grinder before sifting.
- Prepare 3 stainless bowls and put 1 cup of finely sifted rice powder into the each bowl. (Bowl A, B, and C)
- Boil 2 cups of water for your rice dough.
- Bowl A (white songpyeon): add a pinch of salt and 3 tbs of boiling water and mix it with a wooden spoon. (it’ll be too hot if you use your hands at first) Knead the rice dough for about 5 minutes. Put the dough into a plastic bag and set it aside.
- Bowl B (pink songpyeon): add a pinch of salt, a pinch of strawberry Jell-o powder, and 3 tbs of boiling water. Mix it with a wooden spoon and knead the rice dough for about 5 minutes. Put the dough into a plastic bag and set it aside.
- Bowl C (green songpyeon): add a pinch of salt, 1 ts of ssookgaru (mugwort power) and 3.5 tbs boiling water. Mix it with a wooden spoon and knead the rice dough for about 5 minutes. Put the dough into a plastic bag and set it aside.Tip: You will need to add 3.5 tbs of water because of the 1 ts of ssookgaru.
Make the filling:
Roasted sesame seeds powder filling:
- Grind ¼ cup of roasted sesame seeds using a coffee grinder for 15-20 seconds.
- Transfer the ground sesame powder into a small bowl and mix it with ¼ cup of brown sugar and a pinch of salt.Tip: if you grind too long, the powder will become sticky from the oil in the seeds.
Mung bean powder filling:
- Wash and drain ¼ cup of dried and skinned mung beans and put them in a pot with a thick bottom.
- Add ¼ cup of water and a pinch of salt to the pot and simmer it for 30 minutes.Tip: Be sure not to burn it – simmer over the lowest heat.
- Open the pot and use your wooden spoon to crush the beans into fine powder.Tip: if you make more than ¼ cup of mung bean powder, you may have to use your grinder or food processor to grind it finely.
- Transfer the crushed mung bean powder into a small bowl or container and wait until it cools down.
- Add ¼ cup of white sugar and mix it. That’s it!
Let’s make songpyeon now!
- Break off a piece of rice dough about 1 inch in diameter and roll it between your palms to make a rice ball. Then press your thumb in the center of the ball to make it shaped like a cup.
- Fill the cup with either sesame filling or mung bean filling using a small spoon, and seal it using your thumb and index fingers.
- Place all the raw rice cakes (songpyeon) on a plate.
- Wash your pine needles thoroughly with a little dish soap. Towel dry them.
- Put some water (4 cups) into a steamer and boil it. When it starts boiling, place a damp cotton cloth on the bottom of the steamer tray.
- Make a bed of pine needles on the wet cloth and put the raw songpyeon on top. Put more pine needles on top of the songpyeon, too.Tip: Pine needles stop the songpyeon from sticking together and give them a good flavor.
- Steam it for 25 minutes over medium high heat.
- Prepare some cold water in a large bowl, and drop in a little sesame oil.
- Dump your steamed songpyeon into to the cold water and quickly remove pine needles. Take them out, put them on a plate to serve.
Enjoy your songpyeon and happy Chuseok!