Songpyeon is a traditional Korean food made of rice powder, a group of food large enough for its own word, tteok. It is generally eaten during Chuseok (the 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar, around the Autumn Equinox). Traditionally, it was not specific to a holiday and was eaten on any special occasion, which is why it is usually in a half-moon shape instead of a full moon. Eventually, it became associated with lunar holidays. Unlike Chinese moon cakes, the fact that it resembles a (half) moon and is eaten on a full-moon day is completely coincidental.
The savory chestnut interior, combined with the brown sugar’s sweetness, makes it feel like both a treat and a substantial snack food, combined with the sticky texture of the tteok and undertones of pine needle and sesame oil elevates it to a sophisticated, bite-sized food. It isn’t exactly a culinary masterpiece, but it is a perfect food for holidays and parties, as it stays fresh for a long time.
It’s something I get nostalgic for every so often. I have nice memories associated with the food; when I bite into a songpyeon, I think back to my past: styrofoam trays and Reynolds wrap and cheap wooden chopsticks sitting on old stairs.
Songpyeon (Korean Rice Cake/Dessert)
Estimated Preparation Time: Long
Estimated Cooking Time: 60 minutes
1 kg (2.2 lbs) soaked rice
20g (0.7 oz) ramie leaf powder
12g (2 tsp) sea salt
250g (1.1 cup) water
300g (10.6 oz) sesame powder
300g (10.6 oz) chestnut
300g (10.6 oz) red bean
400g (14.1 oz) white bean
515g (2.6 cups) sugar
750g (3.3 cups) water
3g (0.5 tsp) sea salt
Grind 1kg of soaked rice (non-glutinous rice soaked in water for 2 hours or more), 20g of ramie powder, and 12g of sea salt in a mill. If this is difficult, soak an equal amount of rice flour and mix it with the rest of the ingredients in a bowl.
Pour 250g of water into the bowl, little by little, and knead. The longer you knead the dough, the stickier it will be. Let the dough rest for about 1 hour.
For sesame filling, gently grind 300g of sesame powder in a mixer, add 200g of sugar and 50g of water, and mix well to make the sesame stuffing.
For red bean filling, put 300g of red beans, 200g of sugar, and 600g of water in a pot and boil. Keep it on low heat until the red beans are soft to make bean jam).
For white bean filling, remove the skin of the soaked white beans, add 15g of sugar and 3g of sea salt, and boil for 10 minutes. Let them cool, then crush them.
For chestnut stuffing, grind the chestnuts and boil in a pan with 100g of sugar and 100g of water.
Shape 30g of songpyeon dough into a round shape, spread thinly, and put in the stuffing. The shape can be varied based on preference (most people use a half-moon shape).
Spread pine needles in a steamer, put in the songpyeon, and steam for 20 minutes.
Lightly coat the songpyeon with white sesame oil. This way, it does not stick and adds a savory taste. Let it cool then serve.
Note: Keep in mind, it is a dessert (look at all that starch). If you do eat a whole tray of these, let me know, because you will have earned my everlasting respect and admiration.