Thursday, December 22, 2011

팥 죽 & Winter Solstice

Today, December 22nd, is winter solstice, the shortest day and longest night of the year. Thankfully that means slowly the days will be getting longer to get us through the winter. In Korea there is a traditional food for today, it is pat juk (팥 죽). Pat means red bean and juk, is a thick Korean soup, called porridge. The red bean, or azuki bean is central in Korea's cuisine, especially as a paste. (Look here for my blog on PAT BING SU, a summer dessert concoction based on the red bean).
I was out for lunch with my coworkers today and after a conversation about the tradition of eating 팥 죽  on winter solstice, we stopped into a juk restaurant and the head of the English Department, bought us each a takeout meal of 팥 죽 to have for dinner later this evening. The juk restaurant we went to was so small, with only 3 or 4 tables, but the line up was out the door.  People were flocking to get a bowl of it on this special day.
Each person we were with added something about the tradition when I asked about it. I was informed the reason to eat it is not only because it's a comfort food but it also wards away bad spirits in the year to come. 팥 죽 has deokk (rice cakes) in it, and you are to eat one for every year you have been alive for good luck. I am sure there are many variations to why it is eaten, but it still remains that on this particular day, 팥 죽 is a smart choice. I am looking forward to this evening, with the temperature hitting double digits below zero, to enjoying a warm bowl of this red bean porridge.

Tonight's dinner. 

I would have to eat 33 of these little rice balls!

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