During Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving Day), the years harvested
grains and fruits accentuate the flavor of some Korean food.
Although there are many tasty treats or dishes during the harvest
season, the one that stands out above all else is songpyeon,
traditional Chuseok rice cakes. You'd be surprised to find that
there are many different types of songpyeon. It's considered
quite special, considering the amount of work that goes into
making songpyeon. The half-moon shaped rice cakes are made by
kneading rice flour using hot water and mung beans, and green
soybeans and sesame are used as ingredients for the filling.
Songpyeon is then steamed in a layer of pine needles, leaving
a pattern on the finished songpyeon, along with an appetizing
As mentioned before, there are many different types of songpyeon
such as oryeo songpyeon made of new rice, nobi songpyeon made
of ramie leaves, acorn songpyeon, clam songpeyon, pumpkin songpyeon,
potato songpyeon, flower songpyeon, arrowroot songpyeon and
sagebrush songpyeon, among many others.
Songpyeon that are usually eaten during Chuseok and made with
new or this current year's crop of rice are called oryeo songpyeon.
In preparation, pine needles are picked and cleaned a few days
prior to Chuseok. After all the necessary steps, rice cakes
that have been filled and prepared are steamed in an earthenware
steamer. The finished product will have a faint but fragrant
scent, along with a deliciously chewy texture that makes for
a mixture of flavors and sublime tastes.
Acorn songpyeon contains the true flavor of the Gangwon-do region.
Traditionally, people from the mountainous regions of Gangwon-do
stopped eating the acorn because of its bitter taste and, after
using a grinding stone to make the starch, small leaves of an
oak tree, along with rice flour, were mixed and used as fillings.
They also mixed the filling or stuffing with rice cake and steamed
For clam songpyeon, while not much different from the traditional
songpyeon, the rice cake dough is made into small white shapes
of short-necked clams. Residents of the Pyeongan-do region are
known to enjoy this delicacy.
Pumpkin songpyeon is made with pumpkins harvested during the
autumn season. Pumpkins are sliced, dried and ground into powder.
Then, the pumpkin powder is mixed with rice powder and steamed
chestnuts or roasted sesame seeds to make the filling, and then
steamed. Pumpkin songpyeon is sweet and tasty but also visually
appealing, since the bright yellow color of the pumpkin shows
through the semi-translucent steamed songpyeon.
songpyeon is made with omija (or the dried red fruit of Maximowiczia
typica), gardenia seeds, pine endodermis and mugwort (or Artemisia),
and therefore has a variety of flavors and colors. Flower songpyeon
are known to be made with five cardinal colors and also have
decorations made with various colored dough. Names of these
songpyeon vary according to their ingredients. Flower songpyeon
is classified along with other songpyeon made with rice powder,
however. It's unique in a way because after the rice powder
is kneaded into a dough and flattened, a variety of ingredients
are stuffed into the flat half-moon shaped dough, and since
the shape of the finished songpyeon is the same as your standard
half-moon shaped songpyeon, it's classified as such.
Songpyeon are tasty treats usually enjoyed during Chuseok, and
there are reasons for this. Songpyeon are stuffed with ingredients
made from red beans and other kinds of beans, and are meant to
symbolize a wish fulfillment of one's knowledge or studies.
The five cardinal colored songpyeon are supposed to represent
vitality or energy, and the five basic elements that make up
our universe. Omija is used to make the color red, gardenia
seeds for yellow, Artemisia for green and pine endodermis for
brown. Furthermore, maehwa songpyeon, which are made without
fillings, are supposed to signify the desire for knowledge,
as well as a wish for an exemplary attitude and outlook on life.
Koreans have a tradition of gathering together to enjoy meals
and spend some quality time together during the harvest moon
festival when the full moon is at its brightest and highest
point. Its also a time to be thankful for the abundance of
the seasons harvest.
||Wash non-glutinous rice 3 to 4 times and leave it
soaking in water for 8 to 12 hours. Remove the soaked rice
from water and sprinkle some salt and grind into a fine powder.
Place the Artemisia in boiling water with salt, remove and
then chop into fine pieces.
||Take the powder for the rice cake and divide into 4 parts.
Leave one part as it is, another part for the Artemisia. As
for the other two parts, mix one with water from pine endodermis,
and mix the last part with omija juice and knead it to make
||Peel chestnuts and cut into 3 or 4 pieces, include some
sugar and steam lightly. Take the young soybeans, peel and
add a bit of salt. Wash the sesame and when dry, roast and
then mix with honey. Take the red beans that have been soaked
in water, boil and then grind and mix with honey, salt, cinnamon
powder to make the filling.
||Take little pieces of the prepared dough. Press your thumb
into the middle of the piece to make a round, flat piece.
Place enough filling in the middle, fold and press the ends
to make nicely-shaped songpyeon. Next, wash the pine needles
and then dry.
||In an earthenware steamer, place pine needles on the surface
of the steamer and songpyeon on top. Stack more pine needles
and repeat the process to add as many layers of songpyeon
in the steamer as possible. When you see steam evaporating,
place the cover on top. Next, take the pine needles out, dip
songpyeon in cold water, rinse quickly and apply some sesame
oil. Songpyeon that's not yet been steamed should be covered
with a thin damp cloth to prevent the dough from drying or
Helpful Cooking Tip
Potatoes, sweet potatoes and acorns, among other ingredients,
can be used as the dough. For the filling or stuffing, black
beans, mung beans, chestnuts, jujube, sesame or sweet potatoes
are used. If you dont plan on eating the steamed songpyeon
right away. Rinse it with the pine needles (not in cold water),
keep them covered in a basket.