My mother would make rice cake soup (Tteokguk, 떡국) every year on Seollal (Korean New Year’s Day), the first day of the Lunar calendar and a very important holiday in Korean culture. Traditionally, according to Korean age reckoning, everyone’s age went up one year on Seollal, so the process wasn’t fully complete until you had a bowl of tteokguk. She'd sometimes make this soup on Western New Year’s day, January 1st, too, being that I'm also American.
Rice Cake Soup (Tteokguk, 떡국)
2 cans of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup (with 2 cans of water)
15-20 sliced tteok rice cakes
2 green onions, chopped
2 sheets of black seaweed paper
Fresh black pepper
1. Bring the chicken noodle soup to boil, then add rice cakes and eggs. Lower to medium heat.
2. Cook for approximately 5-7 minutes (depending how you like you’re egg cooked)
3. Add onion, seaweed and black pepper. Serve immediately.
This is not an exact recipe for this traditional soup either. My family wasn't rich and my mother always improvised in the kitchen. This recipe is one of those improvisations. I'd say it's an 'Americanized' version to the Korean way. And who doesn't like chicken noodle soup? ;)
There's a funny side story to this post. I had asked my husband to run to the Korean market to grab the seaweed and rice cakes. When he couldn't find the rice cakes and asked one of the workers where he could locate them, his reply was, "Your wife's Korean." Ha ha! No question, he was totally confident in his statement.
So what's the meaning behind the rice cake soup? Like in some Eastern European cultures, they eat lentils on New Year's for good luck. The rice cakes are the good luck charms for Koreans, the disc-shaped rice cakes look like coins, symbolizing wishes for future prosperity for anyone who eats them. And the clearness of the soup symbolizes a clean, fresh start to the new year.
My husband LOVED it so much, he asked for it again the following day! Perhaps we will have some extra good luck this year? :) <3 Nothing but positive vibes, YEAH!
What's your annual New Year's meal? We'd love to hear yours! Happy New Year! (Again.)
Love & xx's,